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Brining ruling hailed as victory for consumers

Johannesburg - The North Gauteng High Court’s decision this week to set aside an application by the SA Poultry Association (Sapa) for poultry brining caps has received the backing of two industry players.

The association wanted the 15 percent brining cap on chicken pieces to be replaced with a 25 percent limit, questioning the scientific basis on which the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries had settled on 15 percent as the brining cap for frozen chicken pieces.

File picture: Sxc.hu. Credit: SXC.HU

The Association for Meat Importers and Exporters (Aime) described the Gauteng High court’s decision as a major victory for consumers.

Aime’s president, Dave Wolpert, said the organisation had always maintained that brining levels as practiced in South Africa were nothing more than a commercial exploitation of the consumer.

Higher prices

Wolpert argued that claims that the ruling would push prices higher at the till were false. “All that is required is smaller packs of individually quick frozen chicken with the same amount of poultry meat as is currently used, but with 15 percent brine as opposed to current levels of 30 percent and more,” he said.

But Sapa yesterday maintained that the ruling was not made in the best interest of the industry.

Sapa’s chief executive, Kevin Lovell, said the court decision had failed the industry in many respects. Lovell said it would result job losses in the country as there would be an increase in imports.

“The local industry will shrink and our national economic output will fall. Imports are already about one-and-a-quarter times the size of the largest company, Astral, and will become more dominant. This will also have a negative effect on food security,” said Lovell.

“These regulations will simply heighten our attractiveness as an export destination for the chicken pieces the developed world doesn’t eat, and our ability to feed ourselves as a country through sustainable and secure food production will be reduced.”

However, the SA National Consumer Union (Sancu) also welcomed the ruling, charging that the court had made the right decision on the matter.

Postponed

Sancu’s vice-chairwoman, Ina Wilken, said the ruling came in spite of a last lobby by Sapa to either have the brining regulations relaxed or their implementation postponed by a further eight weeks.

Wilken said the ruling now meant that the regulations limiting the brining of frozen chicken portions to a maximum of 15 percent would come into force on schedule on October 22.

She said the real purpose of the application was to mislead the consumer into buying what appeared to be a cheaper product while much of what they got was just frozen water.

“Most consumers know how to improve the succulence of meat products easily and cheaply by marinating them,” said Wilken, adding that Sancu would continue to push for even lower brining levels in future.

“We hope the judgement will now bring an end to the matter, which dates as far back as 2011.”

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