game biltong

What beast in your biltong?

The meat labelling scandal continues to leave a bitter taste in consumers’ mouths – and it has been followed with more bad news with a newly published study proving that biltong is also prone to fraud, especially when it comes to game variants of SA’s best-loved snack.

An authenticity study by the University of the Western Cape analysed 146 samples of game meat from supermarkets and wholesalers and found that more than 100 were mislabelled and contained undeclared meat species.

All the samples marked beef were correctly labelled, but for the worst labelled case 92 percent of packets of kudu biltong contained different species such as horse, giraffe, pork beef and even kangaroo.

UWC associate professor Maria Eugenia d’Amato said: “Some of the substitutions are intentional because kangaroo does not occur in South Africa and it must have been imported.”

Worryingly, one sample labelled ‘zebra’ was actually mountain zebra, a red-listed species threatened with extinction.

“The delivery of unidentifiable animal carcasses to market and the general lack of regulation increases the chances of mislabelling and fraud,” she said. “This has implications for species safety but also has cultural and religious implications.”

D’Amato would not name the supermarkets and wholesalers from which the samples were purchased. She said the study was run between 2010 and last year.

The study, published in the European scientific journal BioMed Central, was conducted between 2009 and last year.

It is the first of its nature in South Africa and entirely unlinked to the horse meat scandal that has riveted Europe.

Game meat biltong is big business in South Africa where over 10 000 wildlife farms are listed.

“We came up with the idea a few years ago but it was very difficult to collect recent samples because there was [little] information on the databases about some wild species that we needed to compare. That delayed the publication of the study.”

In news related to the meat scam saga, the government announced last week that the National Consumer Commission would launch an urgent investigation into the incorrect labelling of meat products.

The Red Meat Industry Forum, meanwhile, has urged scientists to report the labelling transgressors to the authorities.