Meat products on sale in South Africa pose no threat to human health, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said on Thursday.
Davies told the National Assembly that when research about the incorrect labelling of meat products came to light earlier this week, he met the ministers of health and agriculture, forestry, and fisheries to discuss the issue.
"And as far as we are aware, there is no threat to human health from any of the meat products which are on sale in South Africa.”However... consumers have a rights to know what it is they are consuming."
Accurate labelling of meat
The DTI was working towards issuing a new notice which would require accurate labelling of all meat products, so that the contents were clearly indicated.
"South African consumers have a right to know what they consume, and we are going to make sure that information is provided," Davies said.
Earlier on Thursday, acting government spokeswoman Phumla Williams said the National Consumer Commission would probe the incorrect labelling of meat products.
Briefing reporters after Cabinet's fortnightly Wednesday meeting, she said that, as a result of the research findings of a study group at Stellenbosch University, Davies had asked the NCC to conduct an urgent investigation into the matter.
"This is because this matter may have far and wide-ranging implications and impact on the broader consumer public," Williams said.
Findings by Stellenbosch University scientists
According to the study by Stellenbosch University scientists, goat, water buffalo, and donkey meat had been found in food products including sausages, "dried meats", burger patties, and mincemeat. "In other cases, even undeclared plant matter was detected," the university said on its news blog on Tuesday.
"The study found that anything from soya, donkey, goat, and water buffalo were to be found in up to 68 percent of the 139 minced meats, burger patties, deli meats, sausages, and dried meats that were tested."
Soya and gluten were present in 28% of the samples. The university said the products tested were mislabelled and the true ingredients were not declared on the packaging.
Acting NCC commissioner Ebrahim Mohamed told the media briefing the NCC would have to do its own testing of products to determine the veracity of the claims made.
"I'm not aware how long it would take to get these products tested, but dependent on the outcome, certain actions will follow. We are going to push to get finality on the matter as soon as possible," he said.
The investigation would start with retailers, but would not end there. "All those in the supply chain, in terms of the Consumer Protection Act, can be held responsible... and will be subject to this investigation."