3 March 2013

Zimbabwe: Govt Moves to Thwart Inflow of Contaminated Meat From SA

THE government is wary that contaminated beef products from South Africa could have found their way into Zimbabwe, as the country is a net importer of processed foods from the neighbouring country.

It has since moved in to secure borders and entry points to ensure that contaminated meat products from South Africa are not imported into the country.

This was after donkey and water buffalo meat traces were found in South African beef products, raising concern that this meat could have found its way into the country.

Ministry of Health and Child Welfare officials held a meeting last week with the Shipping and Freight Association of Zimbabwe (SFAZ), giving them strict guidelines on the importation of food products.

With the new regulations, food inspectors will be sent to South Africa, where they will inspect any meat products before they can be imported into Zimbabwe.

"We had a meeting with the SFAZ and we told them that it was international best practice that food should be inspected before it is imported," Freddy Chinyavanhu, deputy director at the Food Standards Advisory Board (FSAB) said.

Chinyavanhu said before any meat could be imported into Zimbabwe, importers needed to produce a sanitary certificate, following a pre-shipment exercise that would have been conducted in the country of origin.

To be certain of the ingredients of meat, inspectors must conduct DNA tests, a technology, however, which Zimbabwe does not have.

"Unfortunately, we do not have DNA testing, that is why we resort to pre-shipments," Chinyavanhu said, adding that importers would meet the costs of sending inspectors to South Africa.

The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) said it was happy with the measures taken by the government to ensure that contaminated meat did not find its way into Zimbabwe.

"CCZ raised the issue with the FSAB. we wanted to ensure that it did not trickle down into the country and we wanted to protect consumers in Zimbabwe," Rosemary Mpofu, from the consumer watchdog said.

She said, so far, they had not come up with cases where contaminated meat had been imported into the country.

Mpofu said she hoped the pre-shipment exercise would ensure that contaminated meat will not make it into Zimbabwe.

However, she said the greatest worry were smugglers who could bring in uninspected foodstuffs.

"We want to urge members of the public not to buy food from unlicensed retail outlets," she advised.

The Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) said it has also developed standards for the quality of food being sold in the country.

Sebastian Zuze from SAZ said his body was working with FSAB on standards, while the board was the regulator.

Health minister, Henry Madzorera referred questions to the FSAB, saying the body ran its affairs independently, despite it being under his ministry.

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