By Tauhierah Salie
The Mitchells Plain branch of local “one-stop shop” Chikro and one of its suppliers GR Spice were forced to issue apologies to its Muslim consumers after a picture of a “halal” pack of sausage containing pork caused public outcry. In the image that did the rounds on social media on Wednesday, the product’s ingredients label indicated a “28.4% pork” content. This, despite also having a “halal” sign attached to the price tag.
The management of Chikro stated that all its stores are strictly halal and there are branches in Grassy Park, Parow (Cravenby) and Mitchells Plain.
Chikro’s Mitchells Plain branch spokesperson, Abbas Sonday, issued a statement which attributed the incident to the store receiving the “incorrect” labelling. According to Sonday, who profusely apologized to Muslim consumers for causing distress, the supplier delivered the wrong labels to them.
“We wish to sincerely apologize to the Muslim community for the incorrect labelling of our ‘Regte Egte’ boerewors. This has come due to a label that has been sent to us by our label supplier,” he said.
“We can assure you that all our Chikro stores are Muslim owned and Muslim managed. We have checks in place to ensure that no unhalal products are received onto our premises. We would like to, once again, apologize for causing doubt in your mind about halal authenticity.”
According to Sonday, Chikro has several halal-certified suppliers, including Airports Meats and Robertson Abattoir that supply their meat as well as Farm fresh chicken which supplies the chicken.
Sonday added that the stores themselves are now in the process of obtaining certification.
The suppliers, GR Spices, admitted to having made the error. A statement by GR Spices, however, insisted that there was no malicious intent and that measures were taken to ensure this does not happen again. Senior manager, Chris Green, explained:
“Unfortunately, and it is an absolute fault of ours, we delivered the wrong label. We supply the spices and the batch packs to Chikro and the labels are included. The Label Act is now so stringent that we need to supply the label as well as the spice, so the ingredient label has to be completely correct in order for it to be sold to the end-user. Unfortunately, one of our pickers picked the wrong label and not the halal label and this label then ended up on the end product at Chikro.”
Green said that the employee has since received a final written warning and that precautionary measures have been put in place to ensure that “something like this never happens again.”
“We really and truly apologize profusely. We take full responsibility for this, but it is the last thing we would want to do to disrespect anybody. We sincerely apologize to the Muslim community; we really value our footprint that we worked really hard for over the past few years.”
“This is definitely a lesson for us, and it just shows once again that with social media, you have to be on your toes. There is no room for mistakes, especially mistakes like these where people are, rightly, offended. Be assured that this will not happen (again) in any store. I want to thank everyone for their understanding.”
According to their website grspices.co.za, the family-run company was founded in 1980 and “strive to manufacture and distribute only the best quality products, in compliance with the latest FSSC 22000 standard, guidelines and applicable statutory and regulatory food safety requirements, using the finest raw ingredients from the best sources.”
The FSSC 22000 referred to in the above statement is an international standard developed for the certification of Food Safety Management Systems for food manufacturers.
Green assured Muslim consumers that all their halal products are certified by the Islamic Council of South Africa (ICSA).
ICSA director Shaykh Thafir Najjar confirmed this and added that an investigation will be launched into why there is no labelling on the “halal sign” and it is simply a moon and star.
Management of the Cravenby and Grassy Park branches have distanced themselves from the matter and stated that Mitchells Plain is a separate franchise.