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Astral 'Accepts Fine' for Short-Measuring Chicken

by 5m Editor
5 April 2011, at 10:49am

SOUTH AFRICA - JSE-listed Astral Foods' division, Country Fair, has been charged by a government watchdog for selling less chicken than its packaging claims.

According to BusinessDay, this is the first time the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications’ (NRCS) is taking legal action against a chicken producer for "short measuring".

The regulator said it would be taking Country Fair in the Western Cape to court for repeated violation of the Legal Metrology Act.

"After several visits and meetings with Astral, they have ignored our instructions," operations manager at the regulator Ivan Willis said.

The NRCS first visited Astral’s Country Fair plant in July 2009, the next visit was last December, it said. Both times the regulator found Country Fair’s Spar mix portions 2kg, Country Fair braai cuts 2kg, Country Fair drumstick 2kg, and Pick n Pay no-name braai cuts 2kg to be short measured. These products were sold to consumers, Willis said.

The regulator’s visit was prompted by an investigation into the poultry industry after Country Bird’s Supreme Poultry unit said it reworked chickens by thawing, washing and injecting them with brine and refreezing them. The company had said the practice conformed with food health standards and was widespread throughout the industry.

Astral Foods said it had fixed the weight problem in December and that a dispute over interpretation of the law and how it applied to the weighing of chicken had arisen between them and the regulator. Theo Delport, Astral Foods poultry division MD said: "We have agreed our interpretation of the law has been incorrect but we have rectified it."

Mr Delport said Astral’s attorneys were negotiating a fine with state prosecutors. "It has not been paid, but we agree to it in principle," he said.

"We have immediately stopped with the process that they found to be non-compliant."

He said the regulator had visited in February and had confirmed that the problem had been rectified by the company.

The regulator said it feared that the underweight chicken products were still being sold and the company needed to be taken to task.

The NRCS has opened a case at the Elsies River Police Station.

Astral’s share price was little effected by the NRCS’s charges, losing 0,5 per cent to close at R127,80 yesterday.