The Minister of Health Dr. Joseph Kaonde is most certainly compromised.
We will not be surprised to hear that the beef samples secretly collected and sent to South Africa for analysis contained the dangerous and harmful formalin used for embalming bodies .
From the moment he appeared on Television to confirm the story that a chemical used for the embalming of dead bodies, was found in imported zambeef offals, the Minister took a very steep path into the world of conjecture and outright fabrication.
It was wrong for the Minister to suggest in Parliament that harmful substances were found in meat products, without specifying the type of meat, its origin and indeed without stating which laboratory undertook the test to arrive at the conclusion.
The failure to give full disclosure renders his statement null and void.
These elements should not be secret. They must be made public in order to establish their bona fides and credential. Backyard and contrived results are obviously not acceptable. We should know which laboratory examined the product and the exact findings.
In the absence of these reassuring characteristics whatever test the Ministry is undertaking is both null and void for flouting the most basic of scientific test protocols.
It will not do to suggest that samples have disappeared. These samples were in their custody and the results were a culmination of some analysis whose process could be followed. The least the officials can do now is provide the results and indicate the significance of the findings made. They must tell the nation the amount of Aromatic Aldehyde that was found and why it was dangerous.
There are very serious protocols associated with product sampling and testing which protocols must ensure that the sample are clearly identified and remain in the custody of authorized agents agreed by the parties involved in the testing.
As of now nobody knows which laboratory tested the samples to arrive at the conclusion that Aromatic Aldehydes were present in the sample sent from Chongwe. If anything the laboratory report clearly stated that it was not capable of establishing the nature of chemicals present in the sample.
As scientists we expected the Minister’s narrative in Parliament to adhere to the barest norms of scientific analysis rather than give an equivocal narrative and statements over such a serious and compelling issue as the Zambeef controversy which has understandably consumed the nation for the last two weeks.
The issue uppermost in the minds of the Zambian people is whether or not they are eating meat that has been contaminated by a chemical associated with death.
The Minister should have been categorical to put the minds of the Zambian people at rest.
If anything by confirming contamination on television the Minister was basically confirming two things., namely that a laboratory had conducted investigations and analysis where a harmful substance was found and secondly that the contaminant was Aromatic Aldehyde, which according to the report was used as a chemical for embalming bodies.
We have looked at the letter from the Food and Drug laboratory which allegedly conducted the tests on the samples. The letter makes no mention of any Aldehyde which the Minister is talking about.
That is why we would like to know at what point and from which laboratory the Aromatic Aldehyde was isolated and identified.
It will be most unfair to hear that the secret samples sent to South Africa contained formalin, the embalming fluid because this was not the finding in Zambia. The finding in Zambia was for Aromatic aldehyde any other findings will be is most unscientific, un ethical and indeed a brazen act of cheating.