Freeman Razemba and Victor Maphosa
Several Harare butcheries have been closed down while their owners and some meat vendors were arrested this week during a joint raid by police and city authorities on butcheries selling uninspected meat believed to be contaminated.
The raided butcheries are in Mabvuku, Dzivarasekwa, Highfield, Southlea Park, Warren Park, Glen View and Budiriro. Deputy Harare police provincial spokesperson Assistant Inspector Webster Dzvova and the City Health Services Department confirmed that they were conducting a crackdown on the errant butcheries and meat vendors.
The meat from the raided butcheries and vendors was confiscated and sent for laboratory testing. The raid followed reports that some butcheries are using embalming chemicals as meat preservatives. Investigations conducted so far revealed that the scam involves the use of formalin, a chemical mixture of preservatives used on corpses, which is sprinkled on meat products to make them look fresh and to extend their shelf life.
Formalin is used for embalming in mortuaries to temporarily prevent the decomposition of a human body after death. Sodium metabisulfite, a white chemical, is mixed with water and sprayed on the meat to maintain its reddish hue and create the impression that it is fresh. Used in large quantities, the chemicals can keep flies away and preserve the meat for as long as two months. Soda water is also sprinkled on the meat to maintain its reddish colour.
Police in Harare province have since embarked on crime awareness campaigns urging people to desist from buying suspicious meat.