Effect of post-slaughter handling during distribution on microbiological quality and safety of meat in the formal and informal sectors of South Africa: A review
Global reports on illnesses and deaths related to food consumption continue to raise concern in most countries. This has led to diligent efforts to improve the manner in which food is handled. Hygienic handling of carcasses after slaughter is critical in preventing contamination and ensuring meat safety in both formal and informal meat trading sectors. However, in the informal sector, regulations as prescribed in the Meat Safety Act No. 40 of 2000, which have been set to protect consumer health, are not always adhered to. Although these regulations are put into practice in the formal sector, meat safety challenges associated with meat handling during distribution continue to raise concern. The distribution stage is the most critical period, during which the quality of meat can easily be compromised. Furthermore, meat inspection at the abattoir covers only visual assessment, without considering microbiological tests. Meeting food safety requirements set by government regulations remains a challenge to almost all food processors. This paper reviews the impact of post-slaughter handling on carcass quality and its implications for meat safety during the distribution stage in the formal and informal sectors in South Africa. It also details how meat handling in the informal meat trade exposes consumers to high health risks and recommends that governments create legislation that would be applicable to carcasses produced in the informal sector to align this sector with the regulations governing food production.
Keywords: Bacterial contamination, informal meat trade, legal requirements, meat handling, meat safety