By Wendell Roelf
CAPE TOWN, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Donkey, water buffalo and other unconventional ingredients have been found in almost two thirds of hamburgers and sausages tested in South Africa, a study released on Tuesday showed.
The tests by the University of Stellenbosch were planned before a scandal broke out in Europe over horsemeat labelled as beef that raised concerns worldwide over the risks to human health from a complex and nebulous meat supply chain.
"Our study confirms that the mislabelling of processed meats is commonplace in South Africa and not only violates food labelling regulations, but also poses economic, religious, ethical and health impacts," co-author Louw Hoffman of the university's Department of Animal Sciences, said in a statement.
Soya, donkey, goat, water buffalo and plant material were found in up to 68 percent of the 139 minced meats, burger patties, delicatessen meats, sausages and dried meats tested by the university. The items were not listed as ingredients.
Pork and chicken were the most common fillers found in products that were not supposed to contain them, according to the study that used DNA testing techniques and was published in the journal Food Control.
No similar discoveries had been made over the past two years, when DNA testing became more widely used in South Africa.
Stricter food labelling laws came into effect in the continent's largest economy in March last year, with mandatory information required on content, country of origin and allergens.
But there is no mandatory government testing of food sold in South Africa.
"It is a wake-up call for the industry to abide with the new labelling regulations," Hoffman, a noted game meat researcher, told Reuters.
He said extensive tests over two weeks of more than 100 samples had found no trace of horse meat. (Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Tom Pfeiffer)