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SA supermarkets exposed for participating in meat scandal

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Johannesburg, April 15, 2013  – A South African newspaper, the City Press, on Sunday named and shamed five retailers, some of them with franchises in Zimbabwe, who participated in the meat scandal.

The retailers named were PicknPay, Shoprite, Fruit and Veg city, Woolworths and Spar.

A scientist behind a study into mixed meat products that were stocked and mislabelled by major retailers, says mislabelling meat products has become “commonplace” in South Africa.

Louw Hoffman, a Stellenbosch University professor, told eNCA on Sunday, that in the wake of a report that saw several major supermarkets named for selling mislabelled meat goods, consumer power was a driving force in forcing supermarkets to play by the rules.

He said while there were no health risks associated with eating mixed meat products, consumers had an ethical right to be informed if the meat they were consuming was mixed with other kinds of products.

His study found that nearly 60% of 139 products tested contained ingredients which were not listed on their labels, including donkey, water buffalo, goat and pork.

City Press revealed on Sunday that the retailers including PicknPay, Shoprite, Fruit and Veg City, Woolworths and Spar blamed cross-contamination of different types of meat through chopping boards, saw, hands and utensils as the culprit behind a scandal that has seen worldwide attention.

Shoprite CEO Whitey Basson told the newspaper there was not “intentional adulteration to mislead consumers”.

Of 32 Shoprite and Checkers products tested, 20 were wrongly labelled.

Basson said some of the findings did not make sense.

“No butcher in his right mind would intentionally add a small percentage of lamb, which costs more per kilogramme, to a pure beef sausage, which is cheaper.”

PicknPay food director Peter Arnold said the quantities of undeclared animal products found in the Stellenbosch study were “minute”.

He said there was an international threshold that meat could contain 1% of an undeclared product to allow for cross-contamination.

Spar group merchandise executive Mike Prentice said labelling needed to be “tightened up” and the industry as a whole needed to “jack itself up”.

Meanwhile Hoffman said since the scandal broke, a drop in meat sales had also forced retailers to self-regulate.

“The supermarkets have realised the power of the consumer ….. they’ve become self-regulatory.”

The study examined meat products sourced from shops across Gauteng, the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

Trade and Industry department spokesman Sidwell Medupe said an investigation into meat labelling was underway. Bizday/eNCA

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