‘Botox chicken’ to get the chop

2011-02-05 18:37

The days of “botox chicken”, pumped full of brine and salt to increase the weight, are almost certainly numbered.

The agriculture department is planning interventions to regulate brine injections after City Press published reports of a frozen chicken scandal involving the country’s third-largest chicken producer, Supreme Poultry.

Supreme admitted it had defrosted chicken pieces after their expiry date, injected them with brine and attached a new expiry date.

Agriculture spokesperson Noncedo Vutula said this week that a shock report about the chicken industry – in which a warning is sounded about serious health risks for millions of South Africans – would be made public after it had been approved by the minister.

City Press was reliably informed that four major brands were probed.

The report on the investigation, handed over to the department of agriculture, allegedly refers to a massive loss of weight when the chicken is defrosted and cooked.

A large part of the weight of the chicken packs in question allegedly consists of water injected during the production process.

Consumers therefore pay for water at a price of more than R10 a kilogram.

The report also allegedly warns about high salt levels in the meat which can affect consumers with blood pressure and heart problems, as well as oxidation levels which could affect the taste and pose health problems.

Vutula said this week there was now a forum including officials from the departments of health and agriculture and the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS).

City Press, meanwhile, asked Professor Arno Hugo, of the department of microbial biochemistry and food biotechnology at the University of the Free State, to undertake an independent probe into the chicken industry, basing it on four brands.

The study found that:
» One of the well-known brands analysed weighed 48.37% less when all the fluid had been cooked out of the chicken. Hugo said that the big weight loss in relation to a control portion (21,63%) was an indication of high brine water injection levels.

» The injection level in most other countries is only 10% to 15% of the raw meat’s real weight, but in the City Press investigation the total fluid loss was astronomical.

» The control portion that was not injected with brine, for example, lost 5,97% of its weight after defrosting.

» The frozen portion weighed 29,59% less after the brine had run off when it was defrosted.

» Another reason for worry was the high salt levels (up to 0,67 grams per 100 grams) which could be detrimental to the health of consumers who have blood-pressure problems.

» The tested frozen chicken also showed depleted nutritional values.

» The control portion had protein levels of 20.6 grams per 100 grams, while the four brands had as little as 9.67 grams of protein in some of them.

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