As if the horror across the pond concerning horse meat wasn't enough, a recent study has revealed that more than two-thirds of the processed meat in South Africa is contaminated with, well, a lot of things. Meat scientists who conducted the testing estimated that fully 68 percent of the processed meat in their country included water buffalo, donkey, soy, and "undeclared plant matter."
The study looked at 139 processed meat products including minced meat, sausages, patties, deli meats, and dried meats. Not surprisingly none of the packaging information on those items mentioned the presence of "undeclared plant matter" or donkey.
Thankfully, it looks like buffalo and "undeclared plant matter" were in the minority in terms of contaminants. Soy and gluten were found in 28 percent of the meats sampled, which makes sense given that they'd be easy ways to make a little meat go a long way. The addition of chicken or pork also was a popular adulteration, appearing in 23 percent and 37 percent of the meat, respectively.
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The study's authors point out that beyond the obvious health risks associated with finding things that are not supposed to be in your food, the particular kinds of contaminants pose other problems as well. If you have a gluten intolerance or a soy allergy, eating a hamburger that's supposed to be all meat could leave you stranded on the toilet or worse. If you belong to one of the many religions that are not fond of pork, clearly it would bother you a great deal to know your deli slices include pork. And for the rest of us, we can stay awake a night wondering how much "undeclared plant product" we've consumed.
Perhaps the most troubling part of the South African study is that they did all their testing at the retail level. Unlike in the UK and Ireland, where inspectors primarily discovered the tainted products within the meat supply chain, all these products were on shelves and being purchased and consumed by the general public. The report also indicates that this is a widespread problem endemic to the meat industry and not the work of a few bad actors.
The findings of this study were presented in the international Food Control journal.