Excessive brine in chicken may pose health risk

by Editor fleischwirtschaft.com
Monday, July 23, 2012

Chicken sold in South Africa has excessive amounts of brine, which could pose serious health risks for consumers due to its high salt content, according Business Day.

The government is taking steps to reduce the addition of brine. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has drafted changes to the Agricultural Product Standards Act aimed at reducing the total weight of brine in chicken to 4%.


Brine level of 30%
Association of Meat Importers and Exporters of SA CEO David Wolpert says the levels of brine injected into poultry in South Africa are as high as 30%.

There is no legislation controlling the percentage of brine in chicken. Many countries prohibit it and the US allows just 12%.

Frozen chicken accounts for about 90% of the local market, making brining a more important process in South Africa than in some other countries. Individually quick-frozen products such as frozen chicken portions make up about 60% of total retail chicken sales.


No universal practice
South African Poultry Association CEO Kevin Lovell said there was no universal practice for brine injection. South Africa and many other countries brined products as moisture was lost through the freezing and thawing process.

Portions lost more moisture than whole birds, so more moisture had to be added to make sure the taste and texture of frozen chicken was the same as that of chilled chicken. Injection levels of 15% - 20% were enough for acceptable taste and texture for portions, and less for whole birds.

There was a public outcry in December 2010 about the high levels of brine in chicken sold in retail stores. At the time, the Department of Trade and Industry said it was more concerned with consumer safety and welfare, and wanted to ensure consumers would be able to make informed buying decisions.

The preliminary results of a study by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries found there were high sodium concentrations in local chicken, which presented health risks, and the department called for a review of legislation.
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