By Linda Ensor

The department of trade and industry will this week publish proposals to strengthen the labelling of meat products so that their ingredients - such as beef‚ donkey or water buffalo - be identified more precisely.

This follows the scandal over wrongly labelled meat which initially erupted in Europe but then became a local issue when research conducted by the University of Stellenbosch found that meat products found in supermarkets did not correctly label the type of meat that they contained. Unidentified meat such as donkey‚ kangaroo and water buffalo was found in products labelled for example beef.

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said at a media briefing Wednesday that the department intended to strengthen the regulations regarding meat labelling so that labels indicated the animal from which the meat was derived. The proposals to amend the regulations will be published in the government gazette later this week‚ he said.

He stressed the importance of respecting the rights of consumers to know what they were eating‚ especially where consumers insisted on halaal or kosher food products. "The existing labelling requirements are perhaps not strong enough‚" he said. "There is perhaps a need for stronger definitions."

Davies said he had also asked the National Consumer Commission to investigate the parties involved in introducing wrongly labelled meat products into the South African market and to determine whether there had been any violations of regulations. The view of the department was that the incorrectly labelled meat products were mostly imports that had entered SA through the international trade in processed meat products.

It did not appear that there had been any health safety issues related to the meat labellling scandal.

ensorl@bdfm.co.za