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Johannesburg - Chances are slim that horse meat disguised as beef could have slipped through South African import controls, the agriculture department said on Wednesday.
“It is unlikely that South African importers could have unknowingly imported animal products contaminated with horse meat, as imports are usually properly certified by the veterinary authorities of the country of origin,” it said in a statement.
The department had received inquiries on whether the European horse meat scandal would affect South Africa's meat imports.
Veterinary authorities currently allowed importation of recognisable cuts of beef from Germany, Ireland, UK, Spain, Switzerland, and veal from the Netherlands.
There were also imports of processed meat products, such as salami and ham, from certain countries.
“Authorities require that the raw meat used in those processed meat products be sourced within the country of origin of the consignment, and be independently certified by the veterinary authorities of the country of origin.”
Horse meat is imported from Brazil and Belgium. Consignments were inspected at the port of entry by veterinary authorities.
The department said South Africa itself had a small market for horse meat. There were at present only three privately-owned abattoirs approved for the slaughter of horses.
“It is neither unsafe nor illegal to consume or sell horse meat in terms of legislation. The meat is inspected and passed by qualified meat inspectors.”
Horse meat was also used in various animal products. - Sapa