While Europe grapples with its growing horsemeat problem, their consumer brethren in South Africa have a new beef with their beef — namely that a lot of it actually contains donkey, water buffalo and goat meat. Some of those four-legged creatures might be a part of a daily diet in that country, but still, meat should be labeled correctly. Is that so much to ask?
Apparently it is a lot to ask, says a study from professors at Stellenbosch University. They set out to check on the meat processing industry’s progress after new labeling requirements went into effect last year. What they found shows that perhaps those companies aren’t so gung ho about compliance.
According to the study, via the Associated Press, 68% of 139 samples contained species not listed on the product label, including the aforementioned four-legged varieties as well as soya and gluten in 28% of those samples. Pork and chicken were also detected but not declared on labels in 37% and 23% of samples, respectively.
This happened most often with sausages, burger patties and deli meats, where perhaps it’s easier to hide non-beef meats in all that ground-up stuff.
“This study confirms that the mislabeling of processed meats is commonplace in South Africa and not only violates food labeling regulations but also poses economic, religious, ethical and health impacts,” said one of the co-authors.
But hey, none of those samples contained horse meat, so, yay?
It took years to get the labeling laws passed in the first place because meat producers opposed it, and the professor notes “we are picking up the feeling that the industry is not acting on the new legislation.”
All of the samples included in the study were from local supermarkets and butchers. The good news, says one of the co-authors, is that supermarkets will usually hold their suppliers accountable and even send samples to Stellenbosch for verification.
Once again, there’s no likely health risk from eating donkey or any of the others, but people have a right to know whether they’re ingesting Eeyore.
“It’s all about people having the right to know” what they are eating, he said. “There’s nothing wrong with eating donkey if you like donkey, but if you don’t, you have the right to know” it is in your burger pattie or sausage.