MPs unhappy with meat label report

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IOL news jun22 meat labelling Independent Newspapers File photo: Courtney Africa.

MPs on Friday slapped down a report-back from three departments tasked with investigating the meat labelling scandal, saying their report provided nothing more than “good intentions”.

In March, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries were tasked with working together to solve some of the issues around food security, that had led to a meat labelling scandal that revealed that some South African supermarkets’ meat products contained meats such as donkey.

The three departments then held a brain-storming seminar in which 118 participants took part, in an effort to identify food control challenges and possible fixes.

In a report presented to Parliament yesterday, some of these challenges and fixes were outlined.

Among the challenges were the fragmented nature of food control in South Africa, which was administered by three different departments, the lack of capacity for inspection, scientific inputs and analysis and ineffective border control.

And while interventions were listed, Parliament heard that the report was merely a “framework” which would guide future interventions.

DA member of the National Assembly’s agriculture portfolio committee, Annette Steyn, said there was a real need for an immediate reaction, but that the report did not offer this.

“I’m really not happy, there is not even one step that we can take immediately,” she said, adding that consumers had been “cheated” by retailers.

She also questioned why no department had yet stepped up to take responsibility for action.

“Which department is the main driver of this? Nothing has changed.

“Everyone is responsible, but no one is responsible,” she said.

Health portfolio committee chairman Bevan Goqwana said “donkey meat won’t kill me, but I need to know what I’m eating for cultural reasons and for religious reasons”.

He said members appeared to be frustrated, as it appeared that a strategy had been devised, but that nothing had happened in the meantime.

ANC agriculture portfolio committee member Salamuddi Abrahams said the report showed nothing but “good intentions”.

“Having known state departments, I am very sceptical when it comes to the application of these good intentions,” he said.

“I haven’t heard what has been done since this thing became public knowledge,” he said. -Saturday Star

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