RIYADH, 14 June — A Saudi official team, which conducted an inspection tour of meat export facilities in the United Arab Emirates recently, has discovered that “fresh” meat being imported to the Kingdom from the UAE is actually frozen meat originally from Brazil, Australia and India.
The team said some of the meat processing centers did not meet health requirements and Saudi standard specifications.
The meat imports from the UAE, the team said, violated rules regarding the country of origin to evade a ban in force in the Kingdom on imports of meat and cattle from certain countries. The team from the Commerce Ministry inspected a number of meat export facilities and cattle farms in the UAE last April.
The team met with municipal officials in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman and Fujairah. The inspection visit was aimed at finding out the actual source of meat exported to the Kingdom from the UAE, as the Gulf country does not produce enough to export.
The Emirates reportedly import sheep and cattle from Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, India and some African countries to meet domestic demand as well as for the export market.
But the Saudi team said in a report released after concluding the visit: “All meat processing and packaging units in the UAE visited by the team were found to be using frozen meat imported from Brazil, Australia and India. They re-exported this meat to the Kingdom labeled as fresh meat.”
The report also pointed out that the UAE companies did not supervise the slaughter of animals in the country of origin directly and left the matter to Islamic organizations in the area. Meat consignments coming to the UAE have to be certified by one of the Gulf embassies.
The team alleged that the UAE companies violated the country-of-origin rules by exporting meat to the Kingdom as a UAE product. This is tantamount to circumventing Saudi regulations for controlling meat imports to the country and a violation of customs rules.
Following the visit, the Commerce Ministry has banned meat imports from the Islamic Cooperative Food Industries in Dubai and Al-Alamiya for Islamic Meat in Jabal Ali. The two firms did not allow the Saudi team to visit their facilities. UAE authorities had closed down Al-Alamiya a number of times for violating regulations.
Meanwhile, Arab News learned that many Chinese companies have stopped exporting chicken to the Kingdom and other Gulf countries following reports about the spread of bird flu in the country.
Sources at the commerce and agriculture ministries told Arab News that Saudi authorities were closely following up the issue and are studying measures taken by China to contain the disease, which could be transmitted to humans.
Authorities at Jeddah Islamic Port recently seized 11 consignments of Indian meat, weighing thousands of tons, on suspicion that they originated from countries where the foot and mouth disease was detected.
The Customs Department in Dammam also held two consignments of frozen Brazilian chicken as their papers were attested by the Jordanian Embassy in Brazil instead of the Saudi Embassy.
Saudi Arabia banned import of meat and cattle from many countries including the European Union, African states and some Arab and Gulf countries as part of its efforts to prevent mad cow and foot and mouth diseases. The Commerce Ministry has instructed meat importers to the Kingdom to give a detailed route of their shipments to prevent smuggling contaminated meat into the country.