Meat retailers, manufacturers and consumers must get to grips with new regulations around product labelling, according to a Stellenbosch University researcher. Scientists at the university exposed the illegal labelling of processed meat products earlier this year, compelling government to look at new meat labelling legislations, which come into effect next year.
Professor Louw Hoffmann from the Department of Animal Science at the university said this announcement showed government’s realisation that the existing legislation was not efficient enough to eradicate mislabelling issues. He explained that under the new legislation, processed meat would need to state on the label what species were in the meat, in a way that the man on the street could understand.
“With this new legislation, it will definitely be easier for consumers to know what they are purchasing. This mislabelling can be a problem, specifically for Muslims. There are also people that are intolerant to certain products, and the incorrect labelling can be dangerous for them,” he explained. Hoffmann said it was vital for the new legislation to come into effect as soon as possible, as South Africa was currently in a drought in terms of producing beef. He suggested this would lead to an increase in imported meat for the next couple of years.
“With this drought there is the opportunity to bring in cheaper animal protein that is derived from different species. What this legislation does is make sure that the legally imported meat is linked to the end product,” he said. The new regulations require that the following information must appear on all preserved, processed, and dried meat products as of 25 April 2014: country of origin; product weight; all ingredients and the simple description of animal type, amongst others.
Asked who would make sure all companies were abiding by the new legislations, Hoffmann said meat testing would be done by the municipality health officials. He stressed that they were on a tight budget, and were limited to the amount of testing they could do. In terms of the Muslim community, it would then be up to the Muslim authorities to double check, and make sure the meat was compliant with Islamic regulations. “The problem I have is not with them, but with the budget. They have a big responsibility to make sure everything is correct,” he said.
He also said it was still up to the public to read the labels and make sure they were eating the correct meats. In the case of Muslims, the first thing would be to make sure there was no pork. They would then need to decide whether they were happy with eating whatever products were in the meat. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)