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Poultry industry urged to heed call to limit brine levels

| Legislation

The Association of Meat Importers and Exporters of SA has challenged local poultry producers to heed government's call to limit brine levels to 15% on frozen chicken pieces for the benefit of poor consumers who rely on chicken as a source of protein.

"AMIE calls on local industry to stop exploiting consumers by pumping their chicken with excessive salt water and in turn compromising their welfare. People want chicken for their chicken. Saltwater and spin does not feed (a) family," the association's CEO David Wolpert said in a statement.

Wolpert was responding to media reports that the South African Poultry Association (SAPA), which represents producers, is seeking an interdict to stop the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries from implementing new brining regulations that will compel the industry to reduce the brining levels from the current 30% to 15%.

The department of agriculture has filed a notice opposing the application, arguing that enforcement of this regulation will prevent deceptive practices pertaining to the labelling of poultry products and would also protect consumers by ensuring that the quality of poultry was maintained.

Brining involves injecting chicken with a salt-water solution in order to extend its life as well as to make it look fresh and attractive.

The new regulation, which will come into effect in October, will require producers to halve permissible brine maximum levels for individually quick-frozen portions to 15% and 10% for whole chickens.

SAPA wants this decision to be reviewed and set aside. It argues that limiting brine will ruin the financial viability of the local producers who are also facing unfair competition from imports.

Producers say the new brining regulations will force them to produce more chicken for the same level of revenue and that this would affect their profits.

However, Wolpert said all producers needed to do was to sell smaller packs of chicken pieces at the current prices.

"All (that) is required is smaller packs with current chicken levels and less water. Frozen chicken accounts (for) around 80% to 90 % of (the) local poultry market. The new regulation will restrict brining, which has seen (the) local poultry industry plumping up their profits by exploiting consumers with up to 40% salt water," Wolpert said.

He added that a very small amount of imported chicken was brined as most of the exporting countries like Brazil had banned brining altogether with some countries limiting brining to only 8%.

"SAPA continously and hysterically attempts to discredit imported chickens as ’waste', knowing full well that imported chicken quality is far superior to the local equivalent that is literally swimming in water."

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