The Sunday News
Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
THE Bulawayo City Council has allayed fears of formalin use in city butcheries following the closure of 25 butcheries in Harare on allegations of using the embalming chemical substance to preserve meat and avert losses due to power outages and low purchasing patterns by consumers.
Formalin is a chemical that is used to preserve corpses. The city’s senior public relations officer, Mrs Nesisa Mpofu, said they have not encountered challenges with regards to the quality of meat amid reports of meat rotting in butcheries. She said they were on high alert for any chemical substance that may affect the quality of meat that people consume.
“Use of formalin in the preservation of meat would need tests to be conducted to ascertain its presence. The City of Bulawayo has not come across circumstances warranting the need to test for the chemical in butcheries in the city,” she said.
A survey carried out by Sunday News revealed that supermarkets and most butchers have meat that has been in store for weeks due to low consumer purchasing power coupled with erratic power supplies affecting its quality. Mrs Mpofu said it was important for meat suppliers to stock meat they have the capacity to preserve.
“There is a need for butcheries to ensure that they stock meat that their cold rooms and fridges can adequately preserve. There is also a need to ensure that stocks are purchased according to projected demand so as to avoid keeping meat for too long. Good housekeeping is also encouraged where the first in, first out principle is maintained,” she said.
The city council urged residents to report all matters involving the sale of rotten meat and other food stuffs to council for remedial action to be taken.
Mrs Mpofu said inspection of butcheries and other food outlets was done on a routine basis to check on the quality of products being sold to residents.
“The inspections involve assessing the quality of food in terms of its suitability for human consumption and its aesthetics. The current power outages have posed a challenge in keeping meat. However, the council is all out to ensure that spoilt meat is not sold to the public,” she said.
She added that the butcheries and outlets that were visited by city council were displaying meat that was suitable for human consumption and where meat was found to be unsuitable it was condemned and destroyed.
“The council would like to commend some outlets which have approached our Health Services Department when their meat goes bad and seek for assistance in condemnation of the meat for accounting purposes,” she said.
Issues of affordability and availability of electricity has affected most butcheries in the city’s western suburbs with meat turning green and emitting an unpleasant smell.
To avoid losses butcheries in Harare were using formalin to preserve meat and make it last longer in stock. This led to the arrest of 754 businesspeople and vendors for selling uninspected meat. The informal traders have been selling beef for $50 per kilogramme, half of the average price charged by licensed butcheries.
It was suspected that the meat was being sourced from carcasses of dead animals or stolen ones. Some butcheries were reportedly adding sodium metabisulfite, a chemical which when sprayed on meat maintains its hue to make the meat look fresh.
It is also said the chemical keeps flies away and can preserve meat for up to two months.