BASOTHO in Maseru may have consumed at least 2, 7 tonnes of kangaroo meat in January and February this year.
This after a local meat wholesaler was allegedly supplied with five tonnes of the meat which was mixed with beef and passed off as beef.
Small Business Development Minister Chalane Phori this week told the media that 2, 7 tonnes of the deboned meat may have been consumed by the public before the meat was eventually withdrawn from shelves.
He said Econo Foods Lesotho bought the meat last December from its Cape Town supplier who had said it was beef but laboratory tests in South Africa later confirmed that it was instead a mixture of beef and kangaroo meat trimmings.
He said all the meat had since been removed from all retail shelves while they were taking additional measures to ensure that butcheries which had purchased it from Econo Foods return it.
Mr Phori suspects that the meat may have entered the country after the temporary lifting of a red-meat importation ban during the 2019 festive season.
“We believe that the kangaroo meat entered the country during that period and some of it has already been sold to consumers,” Mr Phori said, adding the meat could have been that of kangaroos which died from the bushfires that ravaged Australia last November.
“The ministry found that about 2, 7 tonnes of the meat have been sold to consumers out of the total of five tonnes imported from South Africa by Econo Foods.” Mr Phori said.
Econo Foods management became suspicious of the meat because of its foul smell and immediately stopped sales of the product and sent it for laboratory testing.
Mr Phori said the discovery has vindicated the ministry’s move to ban importation of red meat products to avoid the consumption of potentially harmful products by locals. He said the ministry would review the laws regulating meat imports.
“Therefore, it is important for the public to be cooperative while we enforce the laws that regulate the industry.”
Econo Foods Lesotho general manager Katleho Moshesha said they stopped selling the meat to the public immediately after noticing the unusual smell and colour.
He said they failed to detect any anomalies on procurement and before processing of the meat as the sealed boxes were frozen and labelled “beef trimmings”.
“All details pertaining to the procuring of the product from the suppliers indicates that the product should have been beef trimmings. The meat had a strange smell as if it was rotting when we deforested it in preparation for processing. It also had an unusually dark colour. We immediately stopped selling it to the public when we made the discoveries and sent samples to a Bloemfontein laboratory.
“The lab tests indicated the presence of beef and kangaroo meat. Unfortunately, by that time some of the meat had already been sold to the butchers in Maseru.
“We have since taken up this matter with the supplier and returned it since it is not what we ordered from them, while also communicating with our buyers to return the meat that may still be with them.
“Some butchers have since returned the meat which was collected by a local abattoir on behalf of the supplier. We are not sure what the abattoir has done with the product. We are still trying to establish if the supplier mistakenly or intentionally sold us this beef and kangaroo mix, since we have never had similar incidents before,” Mr Moshesha said.