File picture: Independent Media

FATIMA SCHROEDER

High Court Writer

HALAAL authorities and the national meat industry approached the Western Cape High Court today for an interdict against a well-known meat supplier which they claim has been engaging in fraud, including re-labelling pork products as halaal.

Orion Cold Storage is also accused of:

* Importing water buffalo meat from India and selling it as AB/B grade beef.

* Importing pig hearts in cardboard containers from Belgium and Ireland and re-labelling and selling them as sheep or beef/veal hearts. In some instances the meat was allegedly marked as halaal.

* Importing poultry from Spain, via Britain, and re-labelling the goods as halaal.

* Importing kangaroo meat from Australia and re-labelling it as “chuck and blade”, a beef cut.

* Removing the labels of expired broiler turkeys returned from Shoprite Checkers and re-labelling them to pass them off as turkeys that had not expired.

* Importing non-food-grade milk powder for animal feed and re-labelling it as skim milk powder.

Orion Cold Storage has denied the allegations against it.

The company said in responding papers that a former employee had tried to blackmail it, threatening to reveal the alleged practices if they did not pay him.

Georg Southey of the Red Meat Industry Forum (RMIF) and the SA Meat Industry Company (Samic) said an informant had told him Orion sold animal feed dairy ingredients to CJP Chemicals – which supplies Tiger Brands and Johnson and Johnson. Animal feed ingredients were cheap to import, but the product was not halaal and unfit for human consumption, he said.

In court papers the applicants say the halaal labels were forgeries designed by Patrick Gaertner, one of the directors of Orion Cold Storage.

Tests on a product labelled as a cow’s heart confirmed it was a pig’s heart, they said.

The National Prosecuting Authority has been approached about launching a criminal investigation.

RMIF, Samic and the SA National Halaal Authority Trust went to court this week for an order allowing it to search Orion’s Muizenberg premises.

The order was granted on Tuesday and executed yesterday, the applicants’ attorney, Amish Kika, confirmed.

The hearing for the interim interdict, to halt Orion’s operations, was stood down to this afternoon.

According to court papers, Orion supplies wholesalers, retailers and the catering industry throughout southern and central Africa. The directors are Rory Klemp and Erich and Patrick Gaertner.

In an affidavit filed at the high court, Southey said the informant had told them Orion had been engaging in conduct amounting to fraud which seriously contravened the Agricultural Product Standards Act.

Southey said the evidence was the “tip of the iceberg”.

The applicants had investigated the matter after a Samic employee alleged he had discovered in June that Orion had imported water buffalo meat from India and sold it to Frey’s Food Brands as AB/B grade beef.

The informant, Tobias Lombard, a former Orion sales agent, had provided cellphone videos allegedly showing Orion employees using heat guns to remove the original labels from goods.

In one recording, Lombard could be heard asking an employee what she was doing as she put halaal stickers on brown containers. She replied: “Ons bless hom gou-gou” (We are blessing it quickly).

The original labels said they were frozen chicken portions from Spain which were not marked as halaal.