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Kangaroo meat scandal rocks Lesotho



MASERU – KANGAROO meat. That is what you probably ate if you recently bought any processed meat from Econo Foods in Maseru.
That stunning disclosure was thanks to a whistle-blower from Cape Town who visited Small Businesses Minister Chalane Phori last week.
The supplier fell out with Econo Foods over issues of non-payment.

Phori told a press conference on Monday that 2 449.4 kilograms of kangaroo meat had been packaged and sold to consumers by Econo Foods Retail.
He said the deal came after the government lifted a ban on red meat imports last December.
“So this enabled some people to take advantage to import kangaroo meat,” he said.

Phori said when they found out about the kangaroo meat import, almost half of the meat had already been sold to the public.
He said their investigations had revealed that a South African company called Levianbe Foods based in Cape Town sold this meat to Econo Foods which was labelled as beef.

Econo Foods Retail in Lesotho bought about 5 tonnes (4 535.9 kilograms) of meat.
About 2.7 tonnes (2 449.4 kilograms) of meat was packaged to be sold to consumers, Phori said.
He said they managed to retrieve about 2.2 tonnes (1 995.8 kilograms) from Econo’s shelves which had not yet been sold.
Phori said the disclosure came through a visitor who was a messenger from Levianbe Foods in South Africa.

That visitor told them that Levianbe Foods sold Kangaroo meat to Econo Foods and Econo Foods had not yet paid.
The minister said the visitor said he was instructed to dispose of the meat since it could no longer be taken back to South Africa.
Then it was found that about 14 tonnes of kangaroo meat was bought by Econo Foods.

Phori said Econo Foods in Lesotho imported about 5 tonnes of the meat and the shop processed about 2.7 tonnes which was sold out.
Econo Foods told the ministry that they ordered beef from a South African company but they were stunned by the unusual smell from the processed meats.
Phori said their visitor told them Econo Foods bought the kangaroo meat intentionally.

He said it was reported that this meat was imported in the form of carcasses, which could be processed into sausages.
‘‘The tests were made which confirmed that the meat is kangaroo not beef,’’ he said.
“When the borders are open for importation of red meat, this now brings undesirable results,” he said.

Last year the ministry discovered horse meat was also being imported into Lesotho to be sold to Basotho.
‘‘We found about it but there was not enough evidence to take the matter to the public,’’ he said.
Phori said his ministry together with the police will raid shops checking meat that is sold to consumers and the permits held by the shops.
He said they have now roped in the Ministry of Trade to enforce the law.

Phori said those violating the law should have their traders’ permits withdrawn.
The minister urged Basotho to be vigilant over the type of meat they buy.
The Deputy Secretary of the Meat Association, who also runs a butchery, ’Maliemiso Rasunyane, said it was a pity that this matter only came to the public’s attention because of a dispute over payment.

‘‘If there was nothing wrong with the payment, we could have continued consuming this meat,’’ she said.
Rasunayne said this was unfortunate because a large chunk of the meat that was imported has already been sold out.
The Executive Director of the Consumer Protection Association (CPA), Nkareng Letsie, said eating animal meat is not a problem ‘‘only if you know what you are eating”.
Letsie said the problem is false information.

“If the meat was sealed and labelled beef, that is where the problem lies,” he said.
He said false information imposes insecurity on consumers because some do not eat certain kinds of meat due to religious beliefs or they are allergic to such meat.
Letsie said this could be dangerous to people’s health . The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security spokesperson, Lereko Masupha, said for a person to acquire a permit to import meat, there should be a valid certificate from a supplier.

Masupha said for meat to be imported in the country, the ministry through its officials at the borders, check both importer and supplier certificates.
“This is to confirm that the suppliers hold valid certificates which show that the meat they sell has been tested and that it is free from diseases,” he said.
He said if there is something suspicious about the meat imported they further take the meat for tests.
“This is done to check if these products cannot be dangerous to Basotho.”

Masupha said if kangaroo meat was imported in the country under the label of beef, this was fraud.
Health inspectors and the police at the border gates should take care of such matters, he said.
Masupha said since the meat is already being consumed in the country, the matter has to be reported so that people involved could be arrested.
He said there is a committee which is responsible for such matters which include the Ministries of Small Businesses, Health and others.

Dr Mohlalefi Moteane, a local veterinary surgeon, said there is nothing wrong with kangaroo meat.
He said there are people who eat dog and snake meat but they do not die or get contaminated with diseases.
He said kangaroo meat is just like any other meat.
Dr Moteane said kangaroo meat is in fact rich in proteins and iron.
He said the animal eats grass so its meat is healthy, adding that the meat is not contaminated with any hormones.
“Go and tell people to eat kangaroo meat.”

Refiloe Mpobole

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