Meat racket exposed

2011-11-12 00:00

A KWAZULU-NATAL food company has blown the lid on a nationwide meat racket allegedly perpetuated by a meat distributor in Cape Town.

Food company Frey’s Food Brands in Cato Ridge discovered that Orion Cold Storage was allegedly passing off water buffalo meat as beef. It has since emerged that the company was allegedly also selling kangaroo as beef trimmings and pig hearts as halaal lamb hearts.

Orion Cold Storage has been taken to court by the Red Meat Industry Forum of SA and the SA National Halaal Authority (Sanha) over its alleged practices. It has denied any wrongdoing.

Walter Frey of Frey’s Food Brands said they were approached by Orion Cold Storage in May this year to purchase beef from them. The meat was cheap — R2 a kilo less than meat from other distributors.

He said because of the prices, they became suspicious and asked for samples of the meat.

“We do not sell anything without doing quality control and when we received the samples we realised that the meat did not look like beef so we took it to the South African Meat Industry Company for investigation.”

He said tests showed the meat was in fact water buffalo meat and not beef.

He stressed that Frey’s Food Brands only had the samples of the meat and has never sold it to the public.

Frey said after the discovery, the authorities were informed, which sparked the investigation of Orion Cold Storage. “We have learned that all these other things have now been uncovered and we are very happy that we were part of cleaning up the industry.”

He said it was the first and last time they would deal with Orion.

The scandal exploded when a video recording made by a former Orion agent, Tobias Lombard, at Orion’s Muizenberg premises emerged.

On one of the videos, Lombard asks a female employee what she is doing. She replies, “I’m just busy quickly blessing the chicken.” She was sticking halaal labels on chicken from Spain at the time.

Another recording shows pig-heart labels being removed and replaced with labels saying they are halaal sheep hearts.

Ebit Lockhat, a PRO for the Sanha in KwaZulu-Natal, said as Muslims they are deeply offended by the practices of the company.

“At this stage, we are still investigating who was sold what,” said Lockhat.

• thamsanqam@witness.co.za

Maygene de Wee

CAPE TOWN — The Muslim Judicial Council Halaal Trust (MJCHT) yesterday suspended its involvement with Orion Cold Storage pending the outcome of an investigation into Orion’s activities.

Halaal certification of Orion products has also been suspended.

According to court documents submitted to the Western Cape high court, Orion has been selling imported pig hearts and water buffalo and kangaroo meat as beef, mutton and veal — in some cases allegedly with a halaal label.

The MJCHT’s action follows fraud charges laid against Orion Cold Storage by Imraahn Ismail-Mukaddam, Western Cape head of the National Consumer Forum, and Hanif Loonat, chairperson of the Western Cape Policing Forum Council, at the Muizenberg police station yesterday.

Hanif said if the allegations against Orion are true, the alleged activities would be criminal and Orion would have to be prosecuted.

In a sworn statement submitted to the Western Cape high court on Thursday, Orion Cold Storage MD Patrick Gaertner claimed the fraud allegations against him are a conspiracy.

The SAMeat Industry Company (SAMIC) and the SA Red Meat Industry Forum (RMIF), applied for an interdict against Orion.

Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) president Moulana Ihsaan Hendricks yesterday confirmed the suspension of their business with Orion.

“We strongly condemn the claims that Orion marked non-halaal products as halaal.”

The MJCHT said not all Orion products certified by the MJC are affected.

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