100 percent meat, mostly cow
With no immediate end in sight to the recent meat adulteration scandal, new approaches must be taken to ensure the quality of food products the world over. THINUS VAN ROOYEN investigates
The adulteration of beef products with horse meat or pork in itself poses no direct health threat with regard to human consumption. However, many other factors, such as the presence of chemicals like phenylbutazone in horse meat, need to be taken into account and dealt with. In addition, adulteration raises humanitarian and cultural concerns, as in some cases traces of pork DNA have been found in halaal and kosher chicken products in the United Kingdom.
Needless to say, concerns regarding adulteration have spilled over into South Africa. According to City Press, Professor Louw Hoffman, a specialist in meat science at Stellenbosch University, found that 60 percent of the 139 locally available meat products recently tested by his team of researchers contained ingredients that were not listed on the food labels. Astoundingly, some of the DNA samples found came from animals such as donkeys and water buffalo.
However, companies like Pick n Pay and Woolworths have claimed that minor cross-contamination often occurs during processing because different meat types are processed using the same chopping boards, saws and various other utensils.
This makes the role played by companies such as the Ecowize Group, that specialises in providing hygiene and sanitation services to food, pharmaceutical, and healthcare companies, all the more vital.
“In South Africa, we’ve seen that it is necessary to enforce stringent food security protocols using strict screening processes to guarantee that all products contain only ingredients that are stipulated on the labels,” says Gareth Lloyd-Jones, MD of Ecowize. “It is pertinent that rigorous inspections and policing are conducted to ensure the safety of both imported and local food products.”
In South Africa Ecowize services a wide range of clients including Albany, I&J and Rainbow. Notably, Ecowize is the first cleaning company in the world to be successfully audited against the International Organisation for Standardisation’s (ISO’s) 2012 Food Safety Management Requirements – known as ISO 22000.
One of the company’s most recent initiatives, aimed at improving the quality of food processing worldwide, was the launch of the new Global Food Safety Project (GFSP).
The GFSP will serve as an online network for thought sharing and cooperation among countries such as South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and will seek to provide the latest information, guidance and solutions relating to common food safety issues worldwide.
Another action that has been set in motion to improve the worldwide quality of processed food is the implementation of Enterprise Quality Management Software (EQMS), which is employed by Ecowize globally.
Because of the huge amount of food that is transported by suppliers across the borders of countries on a daily basis, the process of monitoring products becomes elongated, increasing safety risks. When using a traditional paper trail, tracing the origins of food products is a lengthy and easily compromised procedure.
The EQMS system allows for a paperless monitoring process, therefore any discrepancies at the border controls of countries can be handled with greater ease, and be traced back to suppliers with considerable speed. Australia has made EQMS a legal requirement for all its abattoirs.
Lloyd-Jones adds, “Ecowize has also implemented its own EQMS via a platform created by Theta Technologies. In South Africa 90 percent of poultry production facilities are already employing this platform.”
Hopefully, with initiatives like these in place, the quality of food both locally and internationally will see a drastic improvement from its current status quo.