The Zambeef ‘hoax’ yesterday took a new turn with the Minister of Health Dr Joseph Kasonde telling Parliament that beef and meat products seized from various Zambeef outlets throughout the country were contaminated with formaldehyde a chemical used for embalming dead bodies.
He could however not say how the contamination had graduated from aromatic aldehyde an innocuous agent used in confectionary to aldehydes a general chemical term as reported in Ghana and then to formaldehyde as finally reported in Parliament yesterday.
Asked for a comment, Zambeef Corporate Affairs Manager Justo Kopulande said a detailed response would be made soon after the company was availed an opportunity to study the laboratory report, which had not yet been availed to them.
“We have heard about the findings from radio, but we are yet to be availed a copy for us to study,” he said adding that a comprehensive report would be issued after study.
In his ministerial statement yesterday, Dr. Kasonde said that the samples which were taken to South Africa for further analysis to ascertain the nature or type of the chemical found in the seized beef and meat products from Zambeef outlets confirmed the presence of Formaldehyde.
Mystery also surrounds the remnants of the so called ‘sample meat products, as they have disappeared.
But the Minister did not say where the samples sent to South Africa had been collected from and which laboratory in Zambia determined that aromatic aldehyde contaminated the meat products.
And Mumbwa MP Dr Brian Chituwo also wanted to know the source of contamination and how the deleterious effect had been so quickly communicated.
“In my previous statement I made a promise to report back to this House on the findings by my ministry regarding the food samples taken to South Africa for analysis of a specific chemical in the aldehydes group which was found in seized meat from Zambeef outlets by my ministry.
“Mr. Speaker Sir, the findings in the samples taken to South Africa have confirmed the presence of formaldehyde in meat samples from the different batches collected from Zambeef,” said Dr. Kasonde.
He further said that the affected meat products were insides (offals) and hooves, adding that there were a number of concerns raised regarding the quality of imported beef and fish products.
“The affected meat products are imported livers, offal and hooves and it is therefore important that we establish the point of contamination a task that we have vigorously embarked on. Mr. Speaker this August House also wishes to note that in the same periods my ministry seized 13 trucks of imported fresh fish the results were negative and the trucks have been released to conduct their business as usual,” he said.
Dr. Kasonde said that formaldehydes were in the group of aldehydes which were used for embalming corpses for preservations and it was also used in industries for none health significance.
He said that under the Zambian law, formaldehyde were not listed as preservatives under the Food and Drugs act because of its harmful nature.
Dr. Kasonde also said that vending of beef and meat products on the streets would increase the possibilities of contamination of meat products.
“Mr. Speaker I must state here that the objectives of the public health laws are to prevent exposure to hazards that cause food illness and injuries. I emphasized about the need and the importance of safeguarding food our communities,” he said.