Updated 03 January 2014

What the donkey meat scandal taught us

DietDoc comments on the donkey meat in processed products which rocked our world in 2013.

Towards the end of 2013 an article in the Pretoria News highlighted how difficult it is to accurately identify and quantify the ingredients in the food we eat.

Donkey meat

In her article, Wendy Knowler of Consumer Watch, discusses the horse meat scandal that recently shook the meat-processing world. Ms Knowler mentions the book Not on the Label by Felicity Lawrence which includes the revelations about the inclusion of non-specified species of meat in processed meat products in many countries.

According to Ms Knowler’s article, our local manufacturers admitted that the presence of donkey meat in processed meat products was due to less than satisfactory hygiene practices. In other words, the manufacturers did not clean their mincing machines properly between processing different kinds of meat, thereby contaminating subsequent batches.

Read: donkey meat sold as beef in South Africa

This article highlights not only the dilemma of poor hygiene which is unforgivable, but also the fact that although modern detection techniques are highly sensitive, they are unable to quantify the "contaminant".

When testing for parts per million or per billion, probably the only way to prevent contamination during processing is to have completely separate, dedicated production lines for different products.

As regards solutions, I would like to suggest that hygiene be applied a great deal more stringently in all food manufacturing processes.

It would probably be a good idea if food manufacturers and scientists could sit down together and work out acceptable detection limits for the various tests.

Read: Meat products in SA safe, says Minister

I would like to wish all my readers a most successful and healthy 2014! Please send me  your questions from 13 January when I will be online again.

Dr Ingrid van Heerden, DietDoc.

More info

Food safety standards are finally in the spotlight
How to avoid food poisoning
  • References:
    (Knowler W (2013). Horsemeat saga had us fuming..... . Producers admit error due to not cleaning equipment. Pretoria News, 30th December 2013, page. 4.; SAPA-AP (2013). 


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