Halaal meat scandal causes outrage in Western Cape

The Western Cape Muslim community is up in arms after a frozen meat importer allegedly re-labelled pork, buffalo and kangaroo meat as halaal beef products.

The Western Cape Muslim community is up in arms after a frozen meat importer allegedly re-labelled pork, buffalo and kangaroo meat as halaal beef products.

The company, Muizenberg-based Orion Cold Meat Storage, part of the Gaertner Group, denies the allegations. The Red Meat Industry Forum (RMIF), the SA Meat Industry Company (Samic) and the SA National Halaal Authority (Sanha) have brought an urgent court interdict to stop Orion’s actions.

The company is alleged to have imported Irish and Belgian pork hearts and re-labelled them as sheep or veal hearts, in some instances marking them as halaal. They have also been accused of importing kangaroo meat from Australia and re-labelling it as chuck and blade.

RMIF chairperson Dave Ford said due to inaction by the police, the forum had been compelled to proceed on its own.

“We will be doing everything in our power to not only expose these practices, but take legal action against those responsible, even if it leads to them having to exit the industry in disgrace,” he said. Ford added that the RMIF had clear evidence against Orion.

“We have got video footage which shows them removing labels and re-labelling products, and re-packing pork hearts as beef and lamb hearts. It is an absolute disgrace. We also have affidavits from various people,” he said.

The Halaal Forum said it considered Orion’s actions to be religious sacrilege, and called for extreme punitive measures to act as a deterrent. Moulana Mohammed Saeed Navlakhi, theological director of Sanha, said the Muslim community had been “totally outraged” by the selling of non-halaal meat as halaal.

“Pork is totally taboo in terms of Islamic law,” he said. He confirmed that samples had been taken from products supplied to clients. “DNA test results showed that products labelled as sheep hearts were found to be pork hearts. The tests were performed by the National Zoological Gardens laboratory,” he said.

Patrick Gaertner, managing director of Orion Cold Storage, described the actions against Orion as an unwarranted attack and strongly denied any wrongdoing. “The allegations are unfounded, untrue and defamatory, and my legal representatives shall be seeking appropriate relief,” he said.

Gaertner said the applications had been based on false hearsay evidence and he had laid criminal charges of sabotage, blackmail and extortion against two people. According to Gaertner’s affidavit, one of the accused, an Orion employee, had set up a business in the Orion facility in 2008, selling products emanating from Orion to clients under another brand name.

Gaertner alleged that the two accused had operated in an area hidden from the attention of Orion’s management.
 “In this area they had, unbeknown to Orion, changed and/or substituted labels. For example, pig heart labels were changed to  beef or veal heart labels and expiry dates on products were removed. Not only was this conduct a fraud on Orion, but also a fraud on the clients,” he said.

Gaertner added that since news of the allegations had broken, people had gathered outside his company’s premises and a truck driver had even been prevented from making deliveries. This had included a 100t load of turkeys destined for retailers. – Robyn Joubert