Food safety

Poultry master plan promotes food safety

Food safety is an important component of the poultry master plan. Because of implementation delays, there’s only been one major victory so far – on the labelling of imported chicken – but it’s worth celebrating.

The listeriosis crisis in 2018 showed us the importance of being able to trace food back to the producing farm or factory in the event of contamination. All local chicken complies with this requirement, with labels and barcodes that can provide a wealth of information about farm and feed.

For years, however, chicken importers and retailers were allowed by the Department of Agriculture to mix chicken portions from multiple countries in one bag. Consumers could be told that the chicken came from “the Netherlands and/or Germany and/or Argentina and/or Brazil and/or the United Kingdom and/or France and/or Spain and/or Canada and/or the United States”.

That’s nine countries on three continents, and no chance of tracing contaminated food back to source.

Fortunately, that dispensation was ended in September after importers and retailers were given a year’s grace in which to use up pre-printed bags.

In an interview with Business Report highlighted on SABC news, FairPlay founder Francois Baird called the decision “a breakthrough for consumers and the industry” but warned that the new regulation would have to be policed to ensure compliance.

So if you see frozen chicken portions in your local supermarket that say they are the product of multiple countries, shout to management and to media – and please tell us as well.

Image: Chicken from multiple countries of origin for sale untraceable to source, 2019.