Cape Town -
Religious groups with special dietary laws are deeply angered that shops have been selling red meat contaminated by undeclared pork and kangaroo.
However, halaal and kosher food has been insulated from the meat scandal, due to the stringent certification processes that govern its slaughter and sale, said Rabbi Ruben Suiza and Dr Mohamed Shahid Mathee on Thursday.
Ashwin Trikamjee, of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha, said while most Hindus are vegetarian, some do eat meat.
“It is vitally important for Hindus to have products properly labelled so that an informed selection is made with emphasis on religious beliefs,” he said.
Three studies have found that red meat – such as sausages and mincemeat – contained undeclared meat sources. Pork and chicken were the most common, but DNA tests also revealed kangaroo, donkey, goat and in one case water buffalo.
Pork is not allowed to be eaten by practising Jews and Muslims, who consider it unkosher and haraam.
But Suiza said in the kosher meat trade it was impossible for undeclared meat like pork to creep in.
Suiza, a member of Beth Din, an organisation that oversees kosher food accreditation, said rabbinical supervisors oversaw the slaughter of animals in Jewish butcheries, making sure everything complied with Jewish law.
The supervisors, who never let the meat out of their sight, stamped the meat with kosher stamps made of special ink and locked it in sealed refrigerators.
“Even cleaning agents to wash machines, and grease to turn the wheels have to be kosher,” he added.
But he said members of the Jewish community that didn’t follow strict kosher diets found it “extremely objectionable” that traces of pork, kangaroo and donkey DNA had been discovered.
All three are unkosher, as Jews may only eat cloven-hoofed animals that also chew the cud.
Dr Mathee said if Muslims had unintentionally eaten pork they would “not be taken to task”.
“You are not held responsible for things you don’t know, and you will not face retribution in this life or the next,” explained Mathee, a lecturer in Islamic studies at the University of Johannesburg.
But he said the halaal meat trade was well-controlled with representatives of oversight bodies, such as the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), present in butcheries to ensure that animals were slaughtered in the correct manner.
This included not only saying a prayer, but also checking that no “mixing of different meats” took place, he said.