Government and Zambeef have pledged to work together in a bid to resolve the scandal that has caused extreme anxieties among citizens following revelations that the meat company was importing beef products that were allegedly laced with formaldehyde, the chemical used to embalm dead bodies.
Both government and Zambeef have agreed to combine efforts in the hope of establishing out at what point the imported Zambeef beef products were contaminated with the said chemicals so that the matter can be dealt with conclusively and without causing unwanton distress on either part.
Zambeef has come under extreme pressure to exonerate itself following revelations and media reports that selected beef products samples that were initially collected from Chongwe had shown traces of Aromatic aldehyde.
The revelations that Zambeef products were laced with Aromatic aldehyde and later formaldehyde as has now been announced by government through the Ministerial statement in Parliament, has caused a lot of anxiety among consumers, employees and the general citizenry.
Although there had been a clear conflict in the results released by the Ministry of Health and the South African laboratory, mystery over the scandal has continued to deepen now government and the meat company have agreed to work together to resolve the impasse, that threatens lives and jobs.
Initially, Chongwe District health inspector, Mr Chilabi in March this year made an impromptu tour of the Zambeef rented storage facilities in Chongwe and collected seven samples of Zambeef products and forwarded them to the Ministry of Health for contamination tests.
The seven beef samples that were first collected from Chongwe and were tested by Ministry of Health Public Analyst Kennedy Simasiku Nashiana showed that there were ‘unidentified chemical compounds’ in the beef products.
The Ministry of Health Drugs and Food Laboratory housed at the University Teaching Hospital was unable to isolate the specific chemicals but according to a story that was published in the media the beef products that had been tested had confirmed the presence of Aromatic aldehyde, which according to the report was used to embalm dead bodies and was a cancer causing agent.
Experts later revealed that aromatic aldehydes were a common addition to food, to enhance flavours.
However, Minister of Health Joseph Kasonde last Friday announced to the nation in Parliament that the results of the Zambeef samples that were taken to South Africa for tests revealed that the beef products were allegedly contaminated with formaldehyde, the chemical used for embalming dead bodies.
A Daily Nation reporter spoke with Mr Chilabi, the Chongwe Health Inspector who refused to discuss the matter and referred all queries to the Ministry of Health.
Mr Chilabi who said he could not comment on whether it was routine for Chongwe District Council to test imported Zambeef products said as far as he was concerned, the government had made its position clear through the Ministerial statement Dr Kasonde had made in Parliament.
Asked why he had decided to conduct the tests at that particular time, Mr Chilabi said: “I will not discuss anything with you and as far as we are concerned, we will stick with the Ministerial statement that was delivered in Parliament.”
The remainder of the original samples have since disappeared.