Journal of the South African Veterinary Association
On-line version ISSN 2224-9435
Print version ISSN 1019-9128
Since the closure of the Lesotho abattoir in 2003, only imported meat can be legally sold. However, it was estimated in 2007 that 80 % of the meat sold at butcheries comes from informal slaughter. The aim of this study was to investigate the situation. The number and location of informal butcheries in Lesotho (n = 143) were recorded and mapped using Geographical Information Systems. Observations (photographs) of informal slaughter indicated a lack of hygiene, unskilled slaughtermen and illegal disposal of offal with possible environmental pollution. In addition, a cross-sectional study was undertaken to determine the microbiological quality of meat from randomly selected carcasses (n = 237) of cattle, sheep and pigs from a sample of 44 butcheries, 4 of which were associated with registered supermarkets. As a control, samples for microbiological assay were taken from imported meat originating from carcasses (n = 20) slaughtered at a registered abattoir in South Africa. Of the 44 butcheries investigated only the 4 commercial butcheries associated with supermarkets sold imported meat only; 3 butcheries sold meat inspected at government slaughter slabs (n = 3), while the rest (n = 37) sold both imported and informally slaughtered meat. In terms of Lesotho legislation, informally slaughtered meat is only for home consumption. The bacteriological counts from all samples showed a total bacterial plate count exceeding 30 organisms per ml in contrast with the controls which all showed a count less than 5 colonies per ml. This was found for both imported and informally slaughtered meat sold in Lesotho. In addition, meat samples from butcheries showed the presence of the potential pathogens Salmonella (n = 2), Staphylococcus aureus (n = 12) and Escherichia coli (n = 15). During the study, anthrax was confirmed in 9 human patients, 5 of whom died, after consumption of informally slaughtered livestock. Although no cases of animal abuse were detected, it was considered that informal slaughter can prejudice livestock welfare. It was concluded that the current situation is not acceptable in terms of meat safety. Thus, the Veterinary Public Health Directorate of the National Veterinary Services has prioritised the monitoring of butchers, registration of slaughter slabs and a general extension campaign to improve hygiene and animal welfare standards for slaughter in Lesotho. This paper highlights the major risks associated with meat consumption without Veterinary Public Health intervention in accordance with international standards.
Keywords : food poisoning; informal slaughter; Lesotho; microbiological hazards in meat; zoonoses.