Meat labelling crackdown

2013-10-26 00:00

THE Department of Trade and Industry yesterday gazetted more stringent label requirements for meat. This follows a public outcry after research showed that mislabelling of meat products is rife.

University of Stellenbosch research done earlier this year found that labels on meat products in this country did not correctly identify the type of meat they contained. Meat such as donkey, kangaroo and water buffalo was found in products labelled, for example, as beef.

The scandal followed similar problems experienced in Europe.

The new regulations will force meat producers to label all the ingredients in their products and say how they were processed.

This will come into effect in six months’ time.

Ashwin Trikamjee, president of the Maha Sabha, a Hindu cultural organisation, said they welcomed any additional control over food labelling. The majority of Hindus are vegetarian.

Trikamjee said their problem with labelling at present is the use of generalised terms.

For instance, labelling often does not tell consumers that the “stabiliser” in yoghurt is in fact a meat product, or that the “colouring” contains a meat product.

Many consumers also, for instance, do not know that an ingredient containing “bovine” in fact refers to a product from a cow, he said.

“Labelling must be more stringent so that consumers can make better informed decisions,” said Trikamjee.

South African National Halaal Authority spokesperson Ebi Lockhat said that while they are not up to speed with the changes yet, the Islamic organisation implemented changes following the University of Stellenbosch report earlier this year. This was even though Halaal outlets were not implicated.

“We became aware of non- disclosures on ingredients such as soya and wheat gluten,” said Lockart.

Peter Machanik, ingredient specialist for the Jewsih Beth Din organisation said the only sure way to ensure meat is not contaminated with other meat is to buy Kosher meat.

This is because Kosher laws mean that the meat is monitored from carcass to shop floor, it is always cut by a butcher, and no form of mechanical handling of the meat is allowed. The Beth Din is the body that overseas the Koshering of food for the Jewish community in South Africa.

Machanik said the advent of mechanical meat deboning equipment means there is no way that industrial meat producers can claim their products do not contain the DNA of other meat products.

He says that industrial machinery may still contain the DNA of other meat products, even if that machinery is cleaned.

Machanik says more stringent labelling laws may present an opportunity to sell more Kosher meat, as it holds a small market share in the South African meat market.

Hahn & Hahn attorney Janusz Luterek said incorrect labelling of meat related more to problems of monitoring than the need for tighter regulation, and most of the big retailers had invested heavily to ensure their labelling was correct.

1. The number, quantity, measure, weight or gauge of the goods.

2. The name of the producer of the goods.

3. The ingredients of which the goods consist, or material of which the goods are made, including a plain language description of the animal from which any particles, portions or constituents of meat were derived e.g. water buffalo, horse, donkey etc.

4. The mode of manufacturing or producing the goods.

Source: Government Gazette (25 October 2013)

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