The FairPlay Movement, which is a non-profit trade group, has reiterated its call for a food safety agency to be established in South Africa. It believes a statutory food safety agency, which President Cyril Ramaphosa had said the state was working on in 2018 following an outbreak of listeria (a foodborne bacterial disease), was a critical step in protecting the public’s health.
The movement, which recently held a roundtable on the dangers of other countries dumping chicken in South Africa, warned that this continued to have a negative impact on the nation’s food safety because the correct checks and balances were not in place. The meeting also unpacked the extent to which chicken dumping affected both small-scale farmers and the lives of those who consumed the meat.
FairPlay Movement founder Francois Baird said the dumping of poultry products continued to have a negative impact on the local industry. Countries accused of this practice included Brazil, Ireland, Spain, Denmark and Poland, he said.
“The shrinking (of the local industry) is not because small-scale farmers are competitive, but because dumping is taking place. There is excess capacity available and South Africa, including the importers, have signed a game plan to improve the growth of the poultry industry,” he told the gathering.
“The importers promised to export chicken, but that has turned out to be more difficult than intended,” he said. He said the first part of the country’s recovery plan was putting a stop to the dumping. FairPlay Movement spokesperson Ashoek Adhikari said that because of the dumped chicken, small-scale farmers were essentially cut off from the market. The dumping was largely individual quick freezing (IQF) chicken.
“IQF usually consists of brown meat (parts of a chicken that are not white meat), and in most cases, the European countries are faced with a situation where if they do not sell their brown meat to South Africa and other countries like South Africa, they must turn it into pet food,” he said.
“This presents a problem because small-scale farmers can’t grow parts of a chicken. “When the importers dump a specific category of chicken in the market, it kills the market because the farmer grows a whole chicken, and cannot choose which parts of a chicken they must grow,” he explained.
Adhikari also said that the importance of a food safety agency could not be understated. He said the substandard chicken was usually sold to township-based butcheries and small retailers.
“We have found that because the importers have a huge stockpile of brown meat, they get packed into huge containers,” he said. “They then get sold to South African importers and the importers produce frozen chicken packets which they then sell to fringe establishments.”
Adhikari said that sometimes they defrost the meat, brine it, process it, repackage and then refreeze it, which “puts poor people at risk”. He said an agency would not only protect consumers but the sector as a whole.
“Our abattoirs are well-regulated, our food system is in good condition and our veterinary services are playing a big role in this regard,” he said. “If you buy locally-produced chicken that is not expired, you are 100% certain that it is safe because of these regulations that small-scale poultry farmers rigorously follow.”
FairPlay believes that a statutory body should have the powers to name and act against food safety offenders.