Are SA health inspectors up to the task at hand?
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READERS’ FORUM – Dennis Wilson is right to question the ability of our understaffed health inspectors to prevent unsafe meat getting to consumers (“Are there ongoing meat safety inspections in SA?”, Business Report, November 6).
In a Fin24 article (October 23, 2019) it was reported that a R1.4 million fine was imposed on one of the country’s largest meat wholesalers, Durban-based Chester Meat, because of the provision of “unsafe meat”.
The information was provided in a parliamentary submission by the National Consumer Commission. Wilson raises a number of questions, and the public deserves the answers. What meat was it, was it local or imported, and if so from which country? How much meat is not tested because of under staffing?
To these we would add: What was the health issue at Chester Meat? What has the company done about it? And what steps are they and the government taking to ensure a repeat does not happen?
This is not an isolated case. The National Consumer Commission’s (NCC) latest annual report details the urgent product safety recall of a consignment of chicken portions imported from Brazil by another large importer, Merlog Foods. The consignment tested positive for salmonella.
According to the NCC’s annual report, Merlog appealed against the recall, but the initial results were confirmed as well as the safety recall. The NCC could not locate the consignment and its investigation revealed that in the meantime the consignment was removed and had illegally been distributed, some of it was used by the buyers to “manufacture raw and cooked products for sale directly to consumers or to other smaller businesses”.
It’s a scandalous state of affairs, which FairPlay has been trying for some time to expose. We have recently been in touch with the authorities, and with Merlog, over chicken portions offered for sale which we believe do not meet local labelling requirements. Labelling is critical to trace contamination, and as Wilson points out, more than 200 people died last year, because of the listeriosis outbreak. A similar tragedy must not be allowed to happen again.