Who is monitoring chicken imports?

Two small items in the latest South African import statistics raise much bigger concerns. Chicken products that should not be accepted are being landed in the country.

Both questionable items concern mechanically deboned meat (MDM), a paste used in the production of processed meats, such as polony.

In February this year, the Netherlands landed 40 tonnes of mechanically deboned meat (MDM) in South Africa, in apparent contravention of a poultry imports ban which affects all raw chicken meat.

This follows the import of 229 tonnes of frozen MDM from the European Union in January – 202 tonnes from the Netherlands and 28 tonnes from Denmark.

Because of bird flu bans these countries may not export raw product to South Africa.

Also in February, South Africa imported 51 tonnes of frozen MDM from the United States. These US imports happen regularly, in an apparent contravention of import regulations which state that only “anatomically recognisable cuts” may be imported from the US, and then only from safe geographic compartments. MDM in not an anatomically recognisable cut, it is a paste.

Volumes are small, but the principle is important. Why are these consignments not checked at the port of entry, and stopped if they are illegal?