The horse meat scandal in Europe has gone global. Earlier this week, Swedish mega-retailer Ikea announced that it was withdrawing sales of Swedish meatballs in Thailand, Hong Kong and the Dominican Republic after finding horse meat in these. Ikea will also stop selling sausage which were also found to contain horse meat (traced to a Swedish supplier, Familjen Dafgard) in the U.K., France, Ireland, Portugal and Spain. Russia has found horse meat in sausages from Austria.
Now, in South Africa, other types of meat, including donkey, are being found in packages labeled to contain beef.
Scientists from South Africa’s Stellenbosch University say that “species which were not declared on the product label” comprised 68 percent of the 139 minced meats, burger patties, deli meats, sausages and dried meats that they tested. Specifically, the scientists found soy, gluten, chicken and pork in products labeled as something else, as well as “unconventional species” including donkey, goat and water buffalo meat.
“Our findings raise significant concern on the functioning of the meat supply chain in South Africa,” says Prof. Louw Hoffman of the Stellenbosch University Department of Animal Sciences. While “local regulations” to protect consumers do exist, they are clearly not being observed or enforced.
The meat products tested came from supermarkets, butcher shops and other retail outlets. Burgers, lunch meats and sausages were the most commonly mislabeled.
Shoprite Holdings, the biggest food retailer in Africa, states that it runs routine DNA tests on the products in its meat departments. A spokesman for South African’s health department, Maja Popo, told Bloomberg that an investigation would focus not so much on retailers but on slaughterhouses and meat processors.
Sales of frozen burgers in the U.K. have fallen as the scandal has dragged on and officials rush, or say they are rushing, to investigate. While local butchers have seen some increases in sales, farmers have found themselves “even angrier,” fearful that the scandal will result in more red tape and regulations for them to abide by while supermarkets and even food processing plants muddle their way through the uproar.
Some are shrugging and saying, what’s so bad about a little horse meat? It is a huge travesty that, all around the world, products are not accurately labeled, especially in regard to animals and meat. What if you have dietary restrictions about eating certain types of meat such as pork due to your religion?
I don’t eat meat and the whole horse meat (and now donkey, goat, water buffalo, etc. meat) scandal has given me yet another reason to be glad to be a vegetarian. As more discoveries of the wrong meat in the wrong package emerge, the 1906 novel “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair seems worth a reread. In chapter 14, Sinclair includes a fairly stomach-turning account of a character working in a sausage factory: “For it was the custom … whenever meat was so spoiled that it could not be used for anything else, either to can it or else to chop it up into sausage.”
A century later, truth seems to be echoing, if not even imitating, fiction.
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