Ncera Farms Forensic Investigation Report postponed, Meat Inspection services & labelling: Departments Health, Trade and Industry, Agriculture, Forestry Fishery presentations

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

16 September 2013
Chairperson: Ms N Twala (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Chairperson stated, at the start of the meeting, that the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had apologised and said that the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) would  not be able to present the report, scheduled for today, on the challenges at Ncera Farms. All Members voiced their frustration and concern at this announcement. DA and ANC Members pointed out that this was the third occasion on which the report had been postponed, and said that there were various other issues left off the agenda, in order to accommodate the report. A COPE Member noted that he had missed a very important meeting just to fly in for this meeting, and wanted it noted that he intended to express his extreme anger by leaving the meeting and refusing to sign the Members’ register. Members proposed that the Minister be summoned to appear and explain the Department’s failure, after the Acting Deputy Director General had said that he did not have information on why it was not available. He noted that the  new Director General would start in office on 1 October.

A delegation consisting of representatives of the DAFF, the Department of Health (DoH) and the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) then briefed the Committee and answered a number of questions on the recent “meat-labelling” scandal brought to light by investigations at the Universities of Stellenbosch and Western Cape. After the last presentation given by DAFF to the Committee in March 2013, the DAFF had been asked to produce an action plan on how to improve the coordination of regulations relating to labelling. A workshop was held in June 2013, and the three departments represented at the meeting had worked on the plan. The Plan was presented to Ministers on 12 August, and Cabinet approval was pending. This plan envisaged the creation of a Ministerial Cluster on Food Security and Food Safety, and the Inter-Departmental Food Safety Coordinating Committee, as precursors to the establishment of a Food Safety Agency. An Inter-Departmental Food Safety Coordinating Committee (IDFSCC) was established as an interim inter-departmental coordinating mechanism on the issue of food labeling, to drive the full review of existing legislation and policy interventions, to harmonise inspections, incorporating municipal level, and to link with the Consumer Goods Association of South Africa to drive private sector compliance initiatives. Departments were to appoint senior officials to the IDFSCC. DAFF would take the leadership, supported by DTI and DoH. Terms of Reference had been drafted and would be forwarded to the Ministerial Cluster Chair to be appointed by the Cabinet. The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) biotechnology platform had submitted a project on species identification and quantification in the South African Meat Industry. The first phase would look to establishment of acceptable levels of contamination versus adulteration. Credible laboratory systems would be set up, which would cost R6 million.

A summit had been held by the South African Local Government Association and Municipal Health Services, where it was resolved to ask National Treasury to establish a conditional grant dedicated to addressing Municipal Health Services backlogs, in addition to the local government equitable share formula allocation, with ring-fencing.

Members were cautious in expressing their approval of some initiatives – although they welcomed some they were not yet sure that this went far enough. Members were united in expressing concerns about the  lapses in border control, lack of capacity at the borders and municipalities and the instances leading to mislabelling of meat. Members insisted that punitive measures should be taken against individuals or companies that contravened the Meat Safety Act, and asked whether this had in fact been done. When the responses of the individuals concerned, that this was a cross-contamination issue, were given, and when Members were told of the limitations of the current legislation, they expressed the view that the matters must be re-examined and that changes must be pursued. One Member cited statistics on child deaths due to food poisoning and expressed the opinion that the DAFF did not appear to take this seriously enough. Members urged closer monitoring of equine meat in the three designated abattoirs, asked whether this was complying with labelling, enquired why some of the imported varieties were being imported, and under what name, and repeatedly stressed that consumers must be assured that they were correctly informed of what type of meat they were buying irrespective of whether it was cheaper or more expensive. As a side issue, it was noted that the huge profit-margins on kangaroo meat were unjustified. They reiterated that they wanted to see proper implementation of decisions, urgently, rather than continuation of discussions, and looked forward to getting further reports.
 

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening remarks: Ncera Farms challenges and forensic investigation
The Chairperson informed the Committee that the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had sent a letter the previous day apologising that the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF or the Department) had not been able to come up with the report on the challenges at Ncera Farms (Pty) Ltd.

Ms A Steyn (DA) expressed her utmost displeasure at the information, reminding the members that two deadlines had earlier been given to the Department to submit the report on Ncera Farms, which had been not been honoured. She strongly suggested that the Minister be called to give a report on this recurrent matter to this Portfolio Committee.

Ms M Pilusa-Mosoane (ANC) requested when the report was likely to be ready.

Ms M Phaliso (ANC) said that her sole desire for this meeting was to see the developments and implementations that had been made, based on the resolutions earlier taken about food security, job creation and security of farm workers, rather than so much of a focus on the forensic investigations.

Mr B Bhanga (COPE) expressed his annoyance at the non-prepared report, and said he was reluctant now to comply with signing the members’ attendance register. He had to cancel an important meeting to fly in from Durban yesterday, for the sole purpose of attending this meeting. He believed that the Minister was undermining this Committee. He confirmed that the deadline of this report had been shifted for the third time today, and was now nine months late. The report may never be presented again since Parliament’s schedule would be quite tight until next year. He appealed to Committee members from the ANC to take a definite step on the matter. He also proposed that the Minister be summoned to appear before the Committee to sort out the Ncera Farms issue.

Mr P Van Dalen (DA) was highly disappointed that the agenda of the meeting would have to change because of the delayed report. He too had to cancel an important meeting to be at the Portfolio Committee meeting. He agreed that the Minister be summoned to report to the Committee.

On another issue, he proposed an oversight visit to Hout Bay Harbour, with the oversight visit to Hout Bay which would take place the next day.

The Chairperson added that the Committee members had expressed their displeasure at the delayed report, and the Acting Deputy Director General for DAFF should respond to these concerns. The Committee was really interested in the implementation of the issues previously raised. She wanted to know when the report would be made available.

Dr Bothle Modisane, the Acting Deputy Director General, DAFF replied that he was not in a position to respond to the concerns raised. However, he had noted them and would address them with the Director General.

Ms Steyn added that another frustration she had about the delayed report was that other important issues  might have been discussed - like disaster management, animal health and the recent massive drought issue in the country – but were not included in the agenda because of the Ncera Farms report.   

Mr Bhanga informed the Committee that despite his respect for the Committee and for all the honourable members, he would not sign the attendance register and he would walk out of the meeting as a sign of protest against the Minister’s nonchalance. He asked for it to be noted that he was not participating in the meeting.

The Chairperson reminded Mr Bhanga that whilst Ncera Farms report was of utmost importance, there were other issues on the agenda which were also important, and it would be out of order if he deserted because of an item on the agenda.   

Ms Phaliso suggested that the meeting should proceed with other items on the agenda.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane appealed to Mr Bhanga to reconsider his decision and stay for the meeting.

The Chairperson told Mr Van Dalen that his suggestion about extending the oversight visit to Hout Bay Harbour was a noble one and that it was possible, but that the application for the oversight visit was still with the House Chairperson.

Mr Bhanga insisted that he was leaving the meeting without signing the register. He then departed.

Action Plan towards Strengthening Food Inspection Services and Labelling in South Africa: DAFF briefing
Dr Bothle Modisane, Acting Deputy Director General, DAFF, tendered the apologies of the Acting Director General who was unavoidably absent from the meeting. He also clarified that the permanent Director General would be starting with the Department on 1 October 2013.

He reminded the Committee that DAFF had given a presentation to this Portfolio Committee in March 2013, and was instructed to come back with an action plan on how to improve the coordination of regulations relating to labelling. A workshop was held in June 2013, where some decisions on action plans were taken. Three Departments – DAFF, the Department of Health (DoH) and Department of Trade and Industry (dti) had worked together on the plan.  

He outlined what he would cover in the report, and said that the proposed Action Plan was presented to the Ministers on 12 August 2013, and the Ministers gave an in-principle approval of it. A Cabinet Memo was prepared for presentation to the Ministers. It requested the approval for the creation of a Ministerial Cluster on Food Security and Food Safety, and the Inter-Departmental Food Safety Coordinating Committee, as precursors to the establishment of a Food Safety Agency. The Portfolio Committee would be updated as soon as the Cabinet made the final pronouncement on the matter.

An Inter-Departmental Food Safety Coordinating Committee (IDFSCC) was established as an interim inter-departmental coordinating mechanism on the issue of food labeling, to drive the full review of existing legislation and policy interventions, to harmonise inspections, incorporating municipal level, and to link with the Consumer Goods Association of South Africa to drive private sector compliance initiatives. Departments were to appoint senior officials to the IDFSCC. DAFF would take the leadership, to be supported by DTI and DoH. The Terms of Reference had been drafted and would be forwarded to the Ministerial Cluster Chair to be appointed by the Cabinet.

He noted that in regard to animal species, there was a capacity shortage and therefore quantitative analysis could not be conducted. However, discussions had been ongoing since the European Horse Meat issues were publicised, and publication of research results by the South African academics. The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) biotechnology platform had submitted a project on species identification and quantification in the South African Meat Industry. The first phase would result in the departments establishing acceptable levels of contamination versus adulteration, and credible laboratory quality management systems would be running for 12 months at a cost of R6 million.

An interdepartmental pilot training workshop for informal traders and Health and Environmental Officers in the Western Cape, in conjunction with Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the Cape Town City Municipality was ongoing. The initial notice on Meat Labelling (Processed and packaged Meat products, dried and packaged) was issued in March 2013 by the dti, and public comments were received up to end of June 2013. Coordination amongst departments within the ports of entry and borderline environment was currently being strengthened within the Border Control Operational Coordinating Committee (BCOCC) and the Inter-Agency Clearing Forum. The final independent meat inspection proposal would be tabled by MinTech to MinMEC. The Terms of Reference for assignees had been drafted and consultation was ongoing and would be concluded by the end of September 2013.The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had been requested to consult with the Minister of Labour on sectoral salary determination for Meat Inspectors.

Norms and Standards for Food Control had been drafted to strengthen and ensure better internal coordination within departments for efficient service delivery. Consistent application of food legislation relating to monitoring and enforcement had commenced. DoH, DAFF and National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) had engaged with several international food-standards setting bodies to align the current legislation with international standards, to facilitate trade and ensure food safety. DoH continuously responded to and dealt with notifications of food safety alerts, both nationally and internationally, to manage any potential risk.

DoH was in partnership with the National Treasury, South African Local Government Association (SALGA), environmental health body SAEIA and the Health Professions Council (HPCSA), to finalise norms and standards, based on a costing study for Municipal Health Services and also to align the National Municipal Health Services (MHS) benchmarks and guidelines to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the National Health Insurance (NHI).

A SALGA / MHS Summit was held in June 2013. This had resolved that the National Treasury must establish a conditional grant dedicated to addressing Municipal Health Services backlogs, in addition to the local government equitable share formula allocation. The National Treasury must also place a restriction on MHS funds and not link those funds with other services. These resolutions were presented to the SALGA National Executive Committee meeting held on 5 August 2013, where the resolutions were adopted by the NEC and would be distributed to all stakeholders.

In the ongoing investigation into the alleged mislabelling of particular meat products, the National Consumer Commission (NCC) engaged with various stakeholders: importers, manufacturers, other suppliers, academics and relevant government departments. It was anticipated that the report would be presented to the Minister of Trade and Industry in September 2013.

Finally, Dr Modisane noted that a risk assessment  was conducted on processed meat during the first full stakeholder meeting held in August 2013. The second Stakeholder meeting for impact assessment would be held October 2013 and final stakeholder meeting and the final draft regulation was scheduled for February 2014. The proposed action plan was work in progress, and more consultations were planned for specific intervention areas mentioned in the currently proposed Action Plan.

Discussion
The Chairperson asked for clarification on the process still at the Cabinet level.

Dr Modisane responded that a briefing had been given by the Department to the three Ministers of Health, Trade and Industry, and DAFF (although the Minister of Health was indisposed and was briefed later), on 12 August 2013. The three had supported the proposal. The next step would be to take the draft Cabinet memorandum to the Cabinet, but all three Directors General must approve the draft before this step could be taken.

Ms R Nyalungu (ANC) queried where the R6 million indicated in the report would be sourced, whether from the DAFF, or the ARC.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane expressed her concerns about lapses in border control, the fact that there were private abattoirs without DAFF’s control, and the lack of capacity in municipalities. She wondered why the Deputy Director of DoH did not represent the Director General when he was ill. 

Ms Phaliso asked whether, in relation to the Consumer Goods Association of South Africa, there had there been an engagement with the private sector, and, if so, asked how it would be monitored.

Ms Phaliso enquired if there was a process to engage with the historically disadvantaged communities who were eating the equine (donkey and horse) meat. The idea of health inspection in collaboration with municipalities was welcomed, but again, she was concerned about capacity. She proposed a roundtable meeting with all stakeholders and the organised groups from historically disadvantaged communities, to  exchange ideas and get input to enrich the resolutions of the Summit.

Ms Steyn commended DAFF for making an effort to take the proposal to the Ministers. However, this report did not demonstrate the implementation of issues previously raised. She pointed out that the section in the report about ongoing discussions on the European Horse Meat issue and publication of research results by the South African academics should not be glossed over, because it was actually a South African meat-labelling scandal. Not only did it have health implications for those allergic to such meat, or who were prohibited by their beliefs from eating such meat, but more so because no obvious steps had been carried out since to address the concerns. She was really tired of continuously having discussions, but no actions and resolution.

Ms Steyn added that in response to a question last week, the Minister of Health answered that only 3% of retailers had been seen to contravene the issue, but she wanted to know against how many of those had action been taken – although she was sure it was none. She had been informed that kangaroo meat that was imported into South Africa, under a false pretence, was imported for R5 per kilogram, but sold at R50 to R60 a kilogramme, additionally cheating consumers. She asked also what measures had been taken by the DoH against those contravening the Meat Safety Act. She was informed that another Act was used when importing meat into South Africa, but asked how this was done without notice in the Gazette.

Ms Steyn asked who would coordinate the establishment of IDFSCC, and how long would it take for approvals to be sought from the several people. She asked what testing was being done, at present, by  DoH and DAFF on the meats. She further enquired why legislation was being reviewed, saying that it simply had to be implemented. She also asked what the DAFF was doing about milk powder, currently  not tested before importation, and about poultry importation that did not meet South Africa’s standard. She also enquired if there was any indication whether imported products had been rejected by other countries previously.

Ms Steyn finally asked if there was any assurance that, when new ministers were appointed next year, there would be a continuation of all these initiatives.

Dr Modisane replied that since the problems on ground had been identified, ongoing work would always be communicated to the current Ministers and it would not matter whether they were new or not.

Mr Van Dalen commented that that this morning, on a breakfast show, the Minister and the Chairperson counselled South Africans to buy “proudly South African food”. He agreed totally but asked how South Africans would know whether the product purchased was South African or not.

Dr Thembile Songabe, Director of Veterinary Public Health, DAFF, responded that as a result of publications of the University of Stellenbosch and the University of the Western Cape on mislabelling, the companies accused of the mislabelling had come up with the explanation that it was not really a question of mislabelling but that of operational contamination during packaging. The NCC was therefore commissioned to investigate these issues. One of the problems identified was that no system was put in place to quantify the percentage of errors. There was also no way to identify and separate between operational errors and deliberate substitution. ARC would therefore investigate this in the next 12 months. The result of this investigation would provide the acceptable percentage error. This first stage would cost R6 million. Since this initiative was new and not yet budgeted for, the departments were expected to source funding still for it.

He noted the comments on private abattoirs and said that Government and the private sector had just reached a compromise to be jointly involved in the management of abattoirs.

Dr Boitshoko Ntshabele, Director: Food Safety and Quality Assurance, DAFF, clarified that the IDFSCC was an attempt to coordinate the three Departments (DoH, DTI and DAFF) so as to reduce gaps in decision making. He added that the departments were well aware of their weakness, and this was what gave birth to this new initiative. Since this was a new initiative, it might take some time for all the legislation to gel together.

Dr Ntshabele said, in relation to border controls, that one of the main hindrances was capacity, both at the border and at the municipalities. There was an ongoing work being carried out by South African Revenue Services (SARS), Department of Home Affairs and DAFF, towards the creation of a border management agency so as to strengthen importation control at borders.

Ms M Hela, Chief Director, Department of Health, confessed that it had been difficult to monitor the budget of Municipal Health Services because it was not clearly specified. One objective of the Summit therefore was to address these issues and to deepen the understanding of the role of municipalities in the labelling of foodstuffs. Deeper stakeholder relations should improve municipality services. The stakeholders involved were National Treasury, SALGA, Organisation of Environmental Health Officers and the Health Professions Council of South Africa. SALGA, in partnership with South African Local Government Bargaining Council, would assist municipalities to deal with the challenges relating to the human resource capacities, reviewing of job evaluation and grading, and the performance of Municipal Health Services.

Resolutions were also made to progressively introduce community services to unemployed environmental health practitioners, but this must be done within the constraints of the organisational health structure, budget and business plans of municipalities. This decision led to the suggestion on a new conditional grant. The commitment received so far was impressive. Random sampling and inspection were carried out on chemicals that had proven to be problematic, but these inspections were not as foolproof as they should be. Punitive measures had not been taken against companies because the Meat Safety Act contained no system to measure whether the contravention was a result of cross-contamination which the companies claimed was a result of wilful alteration. She confirmed that several workshops had been held with the private sector to stress the seriousness of the issues.

Dr Modisane added that consideration would indeed be given to equine meat issues when the departments clarified the legislative issues. Concerted efforts were being made to make sure that the right packaging was introduced, so that each consumer was aware of what was being purchased. According to the Meat Safety Act, water buffalo meat could currently be classified as beef, and such clauses should therefore be looked into, to ensure a clear demarcation between water buffalo (sometimes imported as a substitute for kangaroo) and cattle meat. It could be categorically said that every imported good was inspected, so that measures were now put in place to curb the recurrence of this. Section 6 of the Animal Diseases Act had been superseding the Meat Safety Act whenever meat was imported into the country, mostly because DAFF was more concerned about the safety of the product from the country of production, and whether it was certified. The Department insisted that proper certification be carried out from the exporting country, before it was received in South Africa.

Dr Modisane noted the comment on milk powder.

The Chairperson corrected the Department on one of its responses, and said that the Committee was not so much concerned with the persons consuming the equine meat, than on the correct labelling of the meats.

Ms Phaliso clarified that she understood and agreed with the responses in terms of imports and labelling, however, she wanted also to get clarity on local consumption and availability.

Dr Songabe explained that the Meat Safety Act was clear on its provisions on cultural or on religious beliefs, and exemptions were provided for. When promoting the Meat Safety Act, no person’s cultural or religious beliefs must be infringed. In addition, the Act permitted equine meat to be slaughtered in South African abattoirs. At this time, three abattoirs were approved to slaughter and process the equine meat. The challenge was that people must be in a position to know what they were purchasing. The provisions to establish a scheme were outlined in section 12, which said a Minister could establish any scheme with the aim of promoting the Meat Safety Act. IDSFCC was not a Committee established under the Meat Safety Act, but would explore all other legislation that applied to food products.

He explained that, at the moment, there were two schemes: the Game Meat Scheme, which had been gazetted as a proposal towards the end of last year, and the National Abattoir Scheme, which was gazetted for public consultations in April 2013. 

Approvals of countries from whom South Africa could import were based on the systems in those countries. Each consignment was certified by their veterinary authorities and also tested at the point of entry. The primary risks and concerns were the changes that might have occurred due to temperature and other factors between the point of export and the point of import. Related tests were then conducted, especially with the consumers. The latter claimed that not enough inspection was done and the importers said inspections were overdone.

Dr Modisane assured Members that every imported product was accompanied by an original Health Certificate which must come from the country of origin, therefore it would not be possible for a rejected consignment from another country to be forwarded to South Africa.

Mr Andisa Potwana, Director: Consumer Affairs, Department of Trade and Industry, added that this Minister had issued an urgent notice of labelling of all processed and dried meat products, which was being finalised. The enforcement agency, National Consumer Commission (NCC), would be tabling its report to the Minister in October, with recommendations as to whether any of the companies involved in the meat scandal should be prosecuted.

Mr Potwana confirmed that in relation to “Proudly South African”  meat products and their countries of origin, the Consumer Product Act required that any identified meat product must now display a label at the back of the product, identifying the country of its origin.

Ms Steyn vehemently disagreed with the excuse given that the mislabelling was as a result of operational contamination. She reiterated that the two studies conducted by the University of Stellenbosch and the University of the Western Cape had demonstrated that there was a deliberate importation into the country of mislabelled meat. She emphasised that the quantity in consideration was not 1 or 10 kilograms, but millions of tonnes of kangaroo meat. She enquired again if there had been follow-up on this fraudulent act? She wanted to know if the dti report on the issues would be made available for public consumption?  Both qualitative and quantitative tests could be carried out, if desired, because such tests were being carried out in some other countries, although the cost implication may be high. She insisted that culprits of previously conducted tests should be arrested and prosecuted, so as to promote strict adherence to the rules. She proposed that if the user or endpoint of the imported meat was traced and located, then the importation could be stopped, thereby putting an effective border control in place.

Ms Steyn also enquired why water buffalo and kangaroo meat were being massively imported into South Africa in the first place.

Ms Steyn wanted to know if the three approved abattoirs for slaughtering equine meat in the country were monitored, to ensure that the slaughtered equine meat was not used for sausages and other meat products.

Ms Steyn said that on the Department of Labour website it was noted that the leading cause of death in 2010 in South Africa, for children aged up to 14 years, was intestinal infectious diseases like food poisoning, and cited the example of a situation in Mpumalanga in August 2013, when 32 children were rushed to the hospital with severe diarrhoea. The website stated that the DoH was investigating the issue. She enquired how many of these cases had been followed up, firstly to ensure no recurrence, and secondly how many actions were taken against those who contravened the law.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane added that that the issues being raised were not related to whether people did or did not choose to eat this meat, but cases where there had been deliberate misrepresentation. Every individual wanted to be sure that he or she would be consuming what was labelled at the back of the product. Borders must be closely monitored, so as to curb porosity.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane noted the concluding remarks that the proposed action plan was work in progress and more consultations would be planned for specific intervention areas, but again asked for an assurance how it would be ensured that subsequent Ministers did follow through on the decisions taken.

Ms Phaliso commented that the responses received were satisfactory, but she was looking forward to seeing implementation.

Dr Modisane agreed that all the concerns raised by the Committee members were valid, and were noted. The issue of the porous border controls had been taken into account, and other Departments, like the Department of Home Affairs and security forces would be brought in to assist with its implementation. In addition, one of DAFF’s officers would be working with the intended border control agency to look into the aspect of bio-security. He reiterated that, according to information received from trading partners and the international community, South Africa was already perceived as having strict import control measures. For example, at the World Trade Organisation Arena, South Africa was among the countries accused of enforcing overly-strict importation measures. However, the border control lapses that had been observed would be worked on and strengthened.

He noted that subsequent to this Committee raising issues in March 2013, there was a deliberate shift by the Department from just focusing on the safety of meat products to the issue of labeling. Information received had proven that “cowboys” in the industry were deliberately mislabeling meat for high profit.  NCC was presently working on this and a report would be tabled to the Minister very soon.

Kangaroo meat imported from Australia was imported as venison, but since “venison” was a protected name in South Africa, South Africa must sell it either as “kangaroo meat” or as “game”. Water buffalo meat was authorised for importation, primarily because certain communities had a preferences for it, but the imports were small-scale. It was of concern, and this would be looked into, if it was sold as “beef”. He agreed that his Department was more concerned with the health and safety of the equine meat being slaughtered in abattoirs in the country, than in supervision of end points. The IDFSCC would certainly look into the matter.

Ms Hela confirmed that follow up was always done when reports were received on food related infectious diseases, in partnership with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the Environmental Health Officers. This year the Minister made an amendment to the Health Act, transferring the management and provisions of Post Health Services to the Department of Health, for better oversight.

Mr Matlala explained that DoH, DAFF and NRCS continually engaged with several international food standard setting bodies, so as to align existing legislation to protect the health of consumers and to facilitate trade.

Dr Modisane informed the Committee that subsequently, meat products may be labeled indicating that the species of meat may contained allergens of other species, similar to what was seen on peanuts.

Dr Songabe said that the three abattoirs, two in Free State and one in Gauteng, with licences to slaughter equine meat were visited in February 2013. Section 11 of the Meat Safety Act prescribed what the owner of such facilities must have, records that must be kept, including where the animal slaughtered originated from and where it was sold to. Records over the past 12 months were demanded and made available in full. The DAFF had also visited the butchery to whom the meat was sold, and the records were corroborated. However the Meat Safety Act did not cover the purchase by the consumer. He reiterated that the report by the NCC on the university studies was eagerly awaited because it would clarify certain issues. It had been extremely difficult to get any laboratory within the country that tested for quantities of species, which was why DAFF welcomed the project by the ARC.

Dr Ntshabele said that in the butcheries there was no wastage, as all meat would be minced, but this was one area that needed unified concerted efforts, to curb the possibility of cross contamination, which could give rise to parasitic bacterial contamination, if, for example, pork was minced with chicken. Care must be taken so that product cost was not increased as a result of stricter measures being enforced.

Ms Steyn was still frustrated at many of the answers, and was in particular not happy with the one-sentence response to follow up on the issue of hospitalised school children. Even if consumers were purchasing low-cost products, they must not be cheated and their safety was equally important. She urged that properly trained personnel must be placed at border points so as to knowledgeably enforce the needed measures.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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