The fact that body embalming formaldehyde was discovered in beef samples sent to South Africa is no longer an issue. This is an established fact. There is absolutely no reason why the results should be questioned.
The intriguing question is: How did the formaldehyde find itself in the sample that was sent for analysis in South Africa?
The original story, published in the media was that a laboratory in Zambia had established as a fact that carcogenic Aromatic Aldehydes, used for embalming dead bodies had been found in beef products imported by Zambeef. The actual batches of the products containing the chemical were named.
We were not convinced. The story sounded most improbable.
We then conducted our own investigations and established two very important facts namely that Aromatic aldehydes were not used for embalming bodies but were in fact used in the confectionary business for flavors and as an essence.
We also established that none of our public laboratories could undertake the complicated assay tests for the specific presence of such chemicals.
We went even further.
We sent our reporters to determine and identify which laboratory in Zambia had established the presence of the aldehydes as reported in the media. We could not find the laboratory and all the people we talked to were instructed not to answer our questions.
Interestingly we discovered that the batches of samples collected from Chongwe had been tested at the Food and Drugs Laboratory in Lusaka. After the tests the laboratory clearly reported that it had no capacity to determine and establish the compounds found in the meat.
The laboratory did not state that aromatic aldehydes had been found.
We then went back to the laboratory to make further inquiries with regard to the remainder of the sample which by that time had been sent to South Africa for further analysis. Out of a total of 8 cartons collected there was no single gram of the original sample remaining, and yet not everything had been sent to South Africa.
We then contacted the suppliers of the products from Ireland and they told us in no uncertain terms that the use of formaldehyde, the embalming element was out of question because of the complexity of the exercise .
There were no remaining samples in spite of the fact that total of 8 cartons were collected from the ware house in Chongwe.
An opportunity to capture the offending chemicals occurred when two trucks were impounded at the border. Subsequent inspection of the products tested negative. Again it is not clear from which laboratory since the main one in Lusaka had no capacity for such tests.
If indeed the practice of preserving offals involved the use of formaldehyde all the consignments should contain the chemical. This was not the case.
The question therefore is: where did the formaldehyde found in the samples sent to South Africa come from?
It is at this point that we support the Ministry of Health and Zambeef in their investigation to determine the source of contamination. Unless this is determined for certain doubts will continue to linger in the mind of the Zambian people, which doubts may also continue to affect zambeef.