S. Africa Misses Chicken-Panel Deadline as Body Mulls Appeal

Updated on
  • Regulations for brining of poultry will start in October
  • Poultry-industry body says it may appeal ruling on brine cap

South Africa’s Agriculture Ministry missed a court deadline to determine if poultry producers can sell down current stocks of brined chicken before regulations that cap the amount of the liquid in birds start next month. An industry body said it’s considering appealing a separate court decision not to postpone the rules’ start date.

On Sept. 12, the High Court in Pretoria, the capital, ordered that the department set up an appeals board that should hear and rule on the South African Poultry Association’s request on stocks by Wednesday, a court order showed. SAPA was informed that the panel was established on Sept. 19 but it hasn’t set up a meeting because a member is unavailable, Kevin Lovell, chief executive officer of the body, said by phone Wednesday.

Separately, the court today refused the association’s request to review the new regulations and suspend the 15 percent cap on brining altogether, according to Amish Kika, a lawyer at Fairbridges Wertheim Becker, who represented the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry as well as other parties in the case.

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, Lovell said last week. Companies affected include 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.

Today’s judgment that the regulations will start on Oct. 22 “reflects that the minister in this instance took into account important considerations like food security alongside food safety, and accordingly considered the interest of consumers,” Kika said in an e-mailed response to questions.

The department is allowing RCL Foods Ltd., South Africa’s largest chicken producer, to deplete its existing stocks of chicken with brine levels exceeding 15 percent after the Oct. 22 introduction of the cap, according to Lovell.

The court also ruled against delaying the new regulations by eight weeks to allow companies to prepare new packaging and comply with administration.

“We believe that the industry is about to suffer a major contraction, that food security will be reduced and that jobs will be reduced in our industry,” Lovell said.