Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Zambeef defends its offals
By Christopher Miti in Chipata, Misheck Wangwe in Kitwe and Edw
Tue 25 June 2013, 14:00 CAT

Zambeef Products Plc yesterday insisted that its imported offal products do not contain any prohibited substances whatsoever.

And Chipata district commissioner Kalunga Zulu has ordered health inspectors from Chipata Municipal Council and Ministry of Health to carry out regular inspection of Zambeef products before they are sold to the public.

In Kitwe, Zambia Consumers Association (ZACA) urged the government to ensure that Zambeef is quickly prosecuted without hesitation following revelations that its beef products contain aromatic aldehyde.

Zambeef management stated in a press release yesterday that it was committed to providing safe, high quality and affordable meat to the people of Zambia and that it would closely work with the authorities to demonstrate conclusively that its imported products were safe.

"The company has stood by its insistence that its imported offal products do not contain any prohibited substances whatsoever," the statement read. "Imported products are transported to Zambia from the country of origin via a strict frozen cold chain kept at minus 18 degrees Celsius, and with full official documentation."
Chief executive officer Francis Grogan said the company was deeply concerned for the distress "this scaremongering" had caused its customers.
"I wish to reassure people that Zambeef continues to supply them with the safest, highest quality food," Grogan said. "Zambeef prides itself in maintaining world-class standards of food hygiene and safety and it is a responsibility that everyone in the company takes very seriously."

According to analysis obtained by The Post, aromatic aldehyde was detected from eight samples of imported Zambeef beef products tested at the Ministry of Health's Food and Drug Laboratory in Lusaka.

The Zambia Institute of Environmental Health ZIEH also carried out tests on some of the company's imported beef products and they were found to contain aromatic aldehyde and the organisation has since called on its membership countrywide to seize all adulterated meat products.

Health minister Dr Joseph Kasonde also confirmed that the government was at a stage where it was considering legal action against Zambeef after tests carried out by his ministry found traces of aromatic aldehydes on some of its imported beef products.

Government authorities at Katima Mulilo Border Post in Sesheke on Sunday intercepted two Zambeef trucks carrying imported beef products as they attempted to enter the country from the Namibian port of Walvis Bay.

And samples have been collected from two Zambeef trucks and 15 trucks belonging to Capital Fisheries for tests at the Food and Drugs laboratory.

In an interview, Sesheke district council secretary Given Muleya said the possibility of legal action was available should the test results from the imported kidneys from Ireland by Zambeef and the tilapia fish by Capital Fisheries prove positive of aromatic aldehyde.

Muleya said the trucks would be detained at the border until the test results were obtained within 48 hours.

He said the routine investigation which has also been spread to fish products was necessitated by the interest generated after Zambeef imported beef products were found to contain aromatic aldehyde.

"We have health inspectors who have collected some samples from the Zambeef and Chani Fisheries consignments which will be sent to the
Food and Drugs laboratory in Lusaka. It take 48 hours to have the test results so until then the trucks will be packed at the ZRA yard at the border before we confiscate and destroy," said Muleya.

And Zulu yesterday said revelations that some Zambeef products contain aromatic aldehyde tallied with what transpired in Chipata in April this year when the company was fined KR1,800 by Chipata council for selling expired meat products.

He said the local authority seized all the suspected meat products that did not have expiry dates.

The council seized 96 pieces of chicken, 6.7 kilogrammes of chicken breasts, six French polonies which did not have the expiry date and 31 pockets of offals.

Zulu said every Zambeef consignment should now be thoroughly checked before selling it.

"I think every time when they (Zambeef) bring a consignment, before they even offload, we should have an inspector from the Ministry of Health, before they offload it in their shop, we will ask our colleagues from the Ministry of Health and the council to inspect so that we are given the right stuff. That is my directive now," Zulu said.

Revelations that some Zambeef products contain aromatic aldehyde had been received with mixed feelings in Chipata.

Some Zambeef customers have appealed to the company to put its house in order.

And ZACA executive secretary Muyunda Ililonga said the revelations on Zambeef were very serious in terms of health consequences.

Ililonga said it was the duty of the government to protect its citizens against commercial fraud in any production processes regarding food matters.

"The works that have been done so far has proved that this particular chemical is there in these products and consumers have been buying these products from Zambeef and consuming these foods. Therefore we do support fully the position taken by the government to ensure that Zambeef removes all imported products from its outlets but we further want government to go ahead and prosecute Zambeef in accordance with the health regulations because there is no doubt that Zambeef's actions has put the lives of many Zambians at risk," he said.

Ililonga said it was unacceptable that Zambians had been subjected to eating beef products that were not fit for human consumption and could cause serious cancer diseases in their bodies.

Ililonga said the government must also strengthen monitory mechanisms on imported products particularly beef which had immediate potential to harm the health of a consumer.

Ililonga said there was need for increased border surveillance and other importing channels countrywide adding that imported beef by Zambeef were not smuggled but they entered the country through the normal border points where tests could have been done.
He said the sad development revealed serious weaknesses in the system of bringing in the products.

"Let's strengthen border checks, health inspection and tests so that these matters of this nature are prevented from entering the market to protect our people. We don't know for how long this has been going on. So it just shows how porous, how weak our systems are," Ililonga said.
Meanwhile, former secretary general of Amnesty International Zambia, Zebbies Mumba, said Zambeef managers must be prosecuted if found wanting.

Mumba, a human rights activist, said Zambians were now expectant that Zambeef would be taken to task by the government in its quest to defend the rights of its citizens as the scam was very clear and accurately attested by Zambia Institute of Environmental Health, which was a competent body in the country to investigate such matters.

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