Goat, water buffalo and donkey meat have been found in food products including sausages, dried meats, burger patties and mince according to a study by scientists at Stellenbosch University.
"In other cases, even undeclared plant matter was detected," the university said in its news blog published on Tuesday (26 February).
"The study found that anything from soya, donkey, goat and water buffalo were to be found in up to 68% of the 139 minced meats, burger patties, deli meats, sausages and dried meats that were tested," it said.
Soya and gluten were present in 28% of the samples.
The university said the products tested were mislabelled and the true ingredients were not declared on the packaging.
The study was published in the international Food Control
journal, and was carried out by Dr Donna-Maree Cawthorn and Professor Louw Hoffman from the university's animal sciences department.
In the blog, Hoffman is quoted as saying: "Our study confirms that the mislabelling of processed meats is commonplace in South Africa and not only violates food labelling regulations, but also (may have) economic, religious, ethical and health impacts."
The products tested were collected from retail outlets and butcheries and various DNA-based molecular techniques were used to evaluate the meat products.
"Our findings raise significant concern on the functioning of the meat supply chain in South Africa," Hoffman wrote.
"Even though we have local regulations that protect consumers from being sold falsely described or inferior foodstuffs, we need these measures to be appropriately enforced," he added.
via I-Net Bridge