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Meat Safety

It is a regrettable indictment that we read in the newspapers of horse meat being sold to us as beef, of pork being used in supposedly halaal products, and similar. However, despite that, the meat sold in South African is, mostly, safe.

The Meat Safety Act 20001 is intended to establish measures to promote meat safety and the safety of animal products, to establish and maintain national abattoir standards, and to regulate the import and export of meat. It is administered by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The Act applies to (meat and products from) the following animals:

A. Abattoirs

  1. It is a criminal offence to slaughter2 any animal at any place other than a registered and graded abattoir.3

  2. It is an offence to permit the slaughter of any animal at any place under your control, unless it is a registered and graded abattoir.4

  3. It is an offence to sell, or provide meat (for human or animal consumption) unless it has been slaughtered at such an abattoir.5

  4. It is an offence to sell any meat, or product from an animal not slaughtered at an abattoir, which has been slaughtered for purposes of personal consumption, or for cultural or religious purposes.6

  5. An application for registration of an abattoir must be approved by the National Executive Officer if it complies with the provisions in the Act. However, the certificate of registration may incorporate conditions, and it is an offence to contravene any of them.7

B. Administration of the Act

  1. The National Executive Officer8 can issue instructions to the owner of an abattoir on a range of issues – including to suspend operations, or perform or refrain from performing any act. It is a crime to fail to comply with any such instructions.9

  2. It is also, in general terms, an offence to:

    • fail to comply with any of the essential national standards;10
    • obstruct or hinder the National Executive Officer, or any officer under his control, or any person exercising any power or the performance of duties under the Act;11
    • fail to comply with a directive issued by the National Executive Officer, upon his inspection of any premises where he has reason to suspect that prohibitions in the Act may be contravened;12
    • tamper with, damage or destroy any sample taken by the National Executive Officer;13
    • refuse to furnish information to the National Executive Officer upon request, or to furnish false or misleading information;14
    • remove, sell or tamper with anything seized by the National Executive Officer including meat, any animal, animal product, sample, book, or document;15
    • tamper with any seal or identification mark, applied by the National Executive Officer to any such thing – or its container.16

C. False representations

  1. It is, in general terms, an offence to:
    • alter or forge any permit, certificate or authorisation issued under the Act;17
    • use any document which has been forged;18
    • make a document, or cause such document to be made, which purports to be, but is in fact not a document issued in terms of the Act;19
    • impersonate, falsely, the National Executive Officer or any authorised person under the Act.20

D. Importation of meat

  1. It is an offence to import any meat into the Republic except on the authority of a permit issued by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.21

  2. It is an offence to contravene any conditions or provisions of an import permit.22

  3. It is an offence to remove any meat from the prescribed storage facility (awaiting the veterinary procedures prescribed in the Act) unless authorised by the National Executive Officer in the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.23

  4. If it comes to the attention of the National Executive Officer that meat is about to be imported in contravention of any provision in the Act, he can direct that it not be off-loaded without his consent, or only under certain conditions. It is a crime to contravene such a directive.24

E. Exportation of meat

  1. Except if the country to which it is to be exported has no restrictions on the import of meat, it is a criminal offence to export meat from the Republic, unless all of the following have been complied with:25
    • the animal was slaughtered at an approved export abattoir;26
    • the meat has been inspected, sampled, and tested;27
    • the prescribed fee has been paid;28
    • the ‘essential national standards’ for slaughtering have been followed;29 30
    • any requirements of the National Executive Officer;31
    • the certificate required by the relevant authority in the importing country has been issued;32
    • the refrigerator33 in which the meat is to be exported was sealed by the National Executive Officer at the time of loading.34
  2. The National Executive Officer may prohibit the exportation of any meat, and it is an offence to ignore such a prohibition.35

F. General

It is an offence to disclose any information which relates to any person and which was acquired in the performance of duties under the Act.36

  1. As amended; the latest amendment was effected by Act 40 of 2000. 

  2. This means to kill an animal, and do the usual things in order to get meat and animal products from the carcass. 

  3. Section 7(1)(a) read with section 19(1)(a). 

  4. Section 7(1)(b) read with section 19(1)(a). 

  5. These first three provisions do not apply if the meat is for your own consumption; or if the animal is slaughtered for cultural or religious purposes. 

  6. Section 7(1)(c), section 7(2)(a) and (b) read with section 19(1)(a). 

  7. Section 8(1)(a) and (b) read with section 19(1)(b). 

  8. This is a veterinarian who is an officer in the Department of Agriculture and is designated by the Minister, and who is effectively in charge of administering the Act. 

  9. Section 10(1) read with section 19(1)(c). 

  10. Section 19(1)(d). 

  11. Section 19(1)(e). 

  12. Section 19(1)(e). 

  13. Section 19(1)(g). 

  14. Section 19(1)(h). 

  15. Section 19(1)(k). 

  16. Section 19(1)(k). 

  17. Section 19(1)(i). 

  18. Section 19(1)(j). 

  19. Section 19(1)(m). 

  20. Section 19(1)(l). 

  21. Section 13(1)(a) read with section 19(1)(a). 

  22. Section 13(3), (5) and (6) read with section 19(1)(a). 

  23. Section 13(8) read with section 19(1)(a). 

  24. Section 13(7) read with section 19(1)(b). 

  25. Section 14(1) read with Section 14(6) and section 19(1)(a). 

  26. Section 14(1)(a) read with section 19(1)(a). 

  27. Section 14(1)(b) read with section 19(1)(a). 

  28. Section 14(1)(c) read with section 19(1)(a). 

  29. These are listed in section 11 of the Act, read with applicable regulations as referred to. 

  30. Section 14(1)(d) read with section 19(1)(a). 

  31. Section 14(1)(d) read with section 19(1)(a). 

  32. Section 14(1)(e) read with section 19(1)(a). 

  33. Referred to in the Act as a ‘reefer’. 

  34. Section 14(1)(f) read with section 19(1)(a). 

  35. Section 14(7) read with section 19(1)(a). 

  36. Section 17 read with section 19(1)(a).