It will take a pressure cooker to soften meat sold by traders

20/12/2007 15:35

The Consumer Council of Fiji is concerned that the exorbitant prices consumers pay for meat is not reflective of the quality of meat purchased. The Council, being conscious of the high meat consumption during the festive season has concentrated its efforts in surveying the marketplace to check on the quality of meat sold to consumers and the prices charged. The surveillance, which was conducted in conjunction with the Prices and Incomes Board, has revealed disappointing information on the quality of meat sold in Fiji’s marketplace.

Consumers in Fiji are unfortunate as information on the quality of meat is not disclosed to them. Traders are often seen labeling and selling meat, especially lamp chops, mutton and shanks as premium meat, hence misleading consumers to believe they are being sold the best quality meat. It is also difficult for consumers to tell whether they are purchasing mutton or lamb meat, as this information is also not disclosed. It may sound ironic, but consumers have lodged complaints with the Council on the toughness of the meat they have purchased. To soften the meat, they had to cook it in their pressure cooker.   

The Council went to the extent of purchasing lamb chops from the wholesalers and the shops that they supply to. A vast difference could clearly be seen in the quality of the meat sold by the wholesalers and those that they supply to – the former tend to retain meat with less fat and supply those with more fat that is visible to its smaller retailers. In addition, rational shoppers would find sense in buying meat directly from the wholesalers to save costs. However, the Council survey shows very little variation in the prices charged by wholesalers and that charged by shops that are supplied with meat.

The market surveillance had also revealed the unscrupulous way a meat trader is able to make more money. The measuring scales in many of the shops visited did not have the scale needle starting at zero. Instead, the needle start point read negative five. This means that when a consumer has his or her meat weighed, the scale would read a plus five, which will cost the consumer more. Moreover, these scales were last certified in 2006. Under the Trade Measurement and Standards legislation, the measuring instruments should be checked for accuracy and certified each new year. 

The Council is strongly advising consumers to be wary of unscrupulous methods used by traders to make money during the festive season shopping. Consumers should check the quality of products they purchase, be it meat or any other product. Consumers can contact the Consumer Council office, PIB or the Department of Fair Trading if any problems arise with their purchase.