Legislation regarding safe meat
The purpose of the Meat Safety Act, 2000 (Act No. 40 of 2000), inter alia, provide measures to promote the safety of meat and animal products. Red Meat Regulations (No. 1072) of 17 September 2004 provides guidelines for the abattoir industry to meet this goal. The Consumer Protection Act (Act 68 of 2008) protects the consumer against further health risks that products may have.
Safe slaughter animals
A basic principle of food safety during the conversion of livestock to meat is have a healthy animal that is free from physical, chemical or biological substances that may lead to any unsafe meat and/or meat products not having an acceptable quality. It is not always possible and therefore laws and industry standards provide for various procedures, methods, and tests as far as possible to ensure the consumer a safe product for example meat inspection and residue monitoring are completed.
Measures for the provision of safe livestock
The abattoir must ensure that the slaughter animals received can be converted into safe meat.
It is not practical or possible to visit and to perform an audit at every farmer in order to determine whether Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) are followed in raising the animals on the farm. The abattoir should insist on a guarantee that the livestock meet the abattoir’s expectation – The owner of the slaughter animals must provide a declaration of health and origin provided for all animals and a record must be held by the owner of the abattoir and such health declaration must contain the following information:
Date of delivery
Name and Address of Owner or the Farm
Amount of animals and species
Health status of the herd(s), including any deaths; and
If given medication and withdrawal periods and dates.
The regulations also provide that if an animal is injured during transport, loading or lairaging at the abattoir it’s an EMERGENCY SLAUGHTER to prevent any further suffering of such an animal. When a Slaughter Animal gets sick, injured or is exposed to abnormal stress before stunning the shelf life of the meat is reduced. These situations cause the gut to be more permeable to bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli and Campylobacter which may be pathogenic.
Any emergency slaughtered animals need a secondary meat inspection by the designated veterinarian at the abattoir and further investigations may be required to ensure the safety of the meat to the consumer.
In summary, these two aspects of the regulations require from the abattoir owner not to accept animals which health can not be guaranteed by the producer and only provides for emergency slaughter of healthy animals which were injured during and after transport.
No animals may be stunned or bled at any place other than at an approved abattoir. Should this happen, it can only be done with clear permission from the Provincial Executive Officer. Any delay in the handling of such an injured animal may, however, probably have more cons from a welfare – and food safety point of view.
Public health authorities, veterinarians and inspection personnel have an important role to give priority to food safety and animal welfare when advising producers about the suitability of animals to be slaughtered.
Red Meat Regulations (No. 1072); Meat Safety Act (Act 40 of 2000)
Animal Welfare and Meat Science; NG Gregory
British Cattle Veterinary Association; Guidelines for Veterinary Surgeons on the Emergency Slaughter Cattle or (March 2010)