South African Court Rules Government Must Allow Poultry Appeal

  • Court rules an appeals board must be set up by September 15
  • If exemption rejected, industry may lose about 2 billion rand

A South African court ruled the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries must set up an appeals board by Thursday to hear a request by the nation’s poultry association that its members be allowed to sell down current stocks of brined chicken.

The department will limit the amount of fat and salt solutions injected into chicken pieces, a process known as brining, to 15 percent starting Oct. 22.

Some of the frozen chicken on the country’s supermarket shelves has brine content that exceeds this level because it was produced before the lower cap was introduced, and if these stocks are destroyed rather than sold, 500 million rand ($35 million) to 2 billion rand of “safe, edible and nutritious food” will have to be thrown away, South African Poultry Chief Executive Officer Kevin Lovell said in an e-mailed response to questions Wednesday.

Request Hearing

The association, whose request has twice been rejected by the department, said the ministry didn’t follow the correct procedure on the appeals. On Sept. 12, the High Court in Pretoria, the capital, ordered that the department set up an appeals board that should hear SAPA’s request within a week of being established, a court order showed.

The department also conceded that it didn’t follow the right processes and is paying the association’s legal costs, Lovell said.

Companies that are affected include RCL Foods Ltd., South Africa’s largest chicken producer, as well as Astral Foods Ltd., the nation’s largest producer of frozen chicken pieces. Astral has started reducing the amount of the solution in its poultry portions to 15 percent.

In a separate process, the association has asked the court to review the new regulations and suspend the cap on brining. Should the court say that the rules remain in place, SAPA wants the court to delay their introduction by eight weeks to allow companies to prepare new packaging and comply with administration, Lovell said by phone. A ruling on this is expected on Sept. 21, he said.

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