Research by the University of Stellenbosch revealed that undeclared plant and animal matter, including soya, goat, donkey and water buffalo, had been found in minced meat, burgers, deli meats, sausages and dried meats on sale in retail outlets and butcheries. The study found that 68% of 139 products tested contained species that had not been included on the label.
Davies asked the National Consumer Commission to launch an inquiry into the apparent breaches of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), which covers product labelling and trade descriptions.
He told South Africa’s National Assembly that there was “no threat to human health” from any of the meat products found to be contaminated. However, he added: “South African consumers have a right to know what they consume, and we are going to make sure that information is provided.”
Researchers from the Stellenbosch University Department of Animal Sciences said that they carried out the study in the wake of the horsemeat scandal that has swept through Europe. They found undeclared soya and gluten in 28% of samples, while undeclared pork and chicken was found in 37% and 23% of the samples respectively. “Unconventional” species, including donkey, goat and water buffalo, were also discovered in a number of products.
“Our study confirms that the mislabelling of processed meats is commonplace in South Africa and not only violates food labelling regulations, but also poses economic, religious, ethical and health impacts,” said Professor Hoffman, who led the study and is regarded as the world’s foremost researcher on aspects of game meat.
“Our findings raise significant concern on the functioning of the meat supply chain in South Africa. Even though we have local regulations that protect consumers from being sold falsely described or inferior foodstuffs, we need these measures to be appropriately enforced.”
The researchers used DNA-based molecular testing to evaluate the meat products. The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was used to detect undeclared plant proteins such as soya and gluten in the samples.