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Imported meat strictly tested, retailers say amid tainted-products scare

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Health fears grow as the world’s largest exporters are among Brazilian companies hit by tainted-products scandal.Major food retailers say their supply chains are subject to strict quality controls and are constantly audited to protect customers from the contamination risks that recently hit Brazilian meat exports.

Although only 30 of the thousands of Brazilian companies involved in meat production have been implicated in the tainted-products scandal, the list includes the largest exporters of poultry and meat in the world.

China, which imports up to one-third of Brazilian meat exports, slapped a ban on all such imports. This has now been lifted, except on products from 21 companies.

South African authorities have taken a more relaxed approach. Last week, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said it was in the process of ensuring the Brazilian companies implicated are suspended from exporting meat to SA. Until the Brazilian Veterinary Authority has fully investigated the matter and can give required assurances for compliance to the South African requirements for importation of meat into SA, department officials have been instructed to test all containers of meat from Brazil.

Prepared products 

Richard Stockley, head of food technology and services at Woolworths, said on Friday all fresh and frozen beef products sold by the retailer were sourced in SA and neighbouring countries. Brazilian poultry was used in a limited number of Woolworths value-added prepared products. "Our supply chain is tightly controlled and subjected to audits and verifications," Stockley said.

David North, GM of strategy and corporate affairs at Pick n Pay, said on Friday most of the group’s meat was produced in SA and the small amount of imported meat was subjected to the same strict quality controls applied to all its products. This included microbial testing.

Negligible portion

Spar merchandise executive Mike Prentice said the group’s corporate office, which supplied about 80% of produce sold in stores, did not import any meat produce. "We encourage our owners not to import, but they are independent," he said.

Meanwhile, most of Shoprite’s meat is sourced domestically, with as much as 98% of chicken derived from South African farmers. A negligible portion — 2% of poultry imports — originates from Brazil. "As far as the group is able to ascertain, none of the Brazilian chicken imports were processed through the factories implicated in the meat scandal," Shoprite said on Friday.

The problems might be good news for SA’s poultry industry, which claims it is being undermined by dumped products.

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