Econo Foods clears name on kangaroo meat saga

MATHATISI SEBUSI

MASERU – Econo Foods, popular distributor of meat products nationwide, has dismissed official government accusations that they sold Kangaroo meat to unsuspecting consumers who thought it was beef.

Small business minister, Chalane Phori, this week told a press conference that 14 tons of Kangaroo meat had been imported into the country under the pretext it was beef, and that 1.7 tons of the meat has already been distributed to consumers through Econo Foods’ main outlet in the capital Maseru.

Phori said the meat came in the form of meat cuttings used for the production of boerewors (a type of South African traditional sausage) and minced meat, which he claimed had been ordered by Econo Foods from Australia.

Econo Foods, however, distances itself from any intended sale of the meat to its customers – with Chief Operations Officer (COO) Procurement, Graham Botha, telling Public Eye today that anything relating to the quality of the beef they had ordered from South African supplier, Laviande Foods, was appropriate and were equally shocked to discover the meat delivered to them had traces of kangaroo meat.

A December, 22, 2019, purchase order for 6.581 tonnes of beef trimmings – which this paper has seen – was serviced by Laviande on December 23, 2019, and delivered to Econo Foods’ Bloemfontein office, in South Africa.

And according to Botha, only around 5.5 tonnes of the meat was dispatched to Lesotho’s Econo Foods franchise outlet as beef trimmings.

“It was in early January when we received complaints from our customers about the quality of the meat, its colour and an unusual smell that we were compelled to check our stock and find out what was wrong, and immediately sent the meat for laboratory testing to validate if it was indeed beef or some other meat,” he continued.

“We immediately also initiated a ‘no sales’ instruction while the verification was being made, and the meat was no longer sold to our customers until we got the results back,” he said.

An SMT laboratory report issued to Econo Foods on January 27 revealed while the Laviande stock contained beef, it also tested positive for kangaroo meat – even though the report does not indicate content percentages.

The test was done on January 15 with results confirmed on January 17.

Botha said they contacted Laviande informing them of the report, further demanding reimbursement for the cost of stock, transport to Johannesburg to Bloemfontein and from Bloemfontein to Maseru, as well as holding costs.

“Despite an earlier dispute of our claim Laviande has since paid us and the stock removed from our store, with the return goods service handled by Meraka Abattoir on February 12,” he said.

Botha lamented the picture that has been created that his company was involved in some illicit trade activities, which is bound to impact negatively on Econo Foods business.

“We placed an order to a supplier and we received what we thought we had ordered. We never knew that the beef we bought was tainted with kangaroo meat. We are a responsible company, responsible with the business itself, our customers and the general economy of the country,” Botha explained.

Econo Foods has also extended regret and apologies for this incident, especially to consumers who may have been affected and have vowed to maintain and safeguard “the quality service we are have been known for.”

Minister Phori had alleged at teh press briefing this week that his ministry was alerted by an Afrikaner businessman, on the instruction of Laviande, to “seize and destroy unauthorized stock stored by Econo Foods at their shop as they were refusing to pay them as suppliers, indicating the meat was from Australia.”

Phori further claimed the meat has since been seized and disposed of, saying his officials would monitor all butcheries “in search of remnants of the kangaroo meat.”

Phori further revealed last year he was alerted that donkey meat was imported into the country but failed to follow up on the case due to lack of evidence.

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