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Beef mince or ground beef? A lesson on food labelling

27 November 2019 3:57 PM
The one meat product is pure beef and the other has ingredients such as water, soya and other flavourants added into the mix.

Read the food label carefully before you buy your next pack of mince.

You may be getting a whole lot less meat for your money, says consumer journalist Wendy Knowler.

It's important to know the difference between minced beef and ground beef in South Africa.

Most retailers label pure, 100% mince as "beef mince" while the blended version is called "ground beef".

Pure beef mince contains no additives.

Ground beef, on the other hand, contains less meat, and more water and soya.

The price of ground beef is often much cheaper than minced beef, by between R10 and R30 a kg, Knowler reports.

She explains that industry refers to ground beef as an “extended” product for all the extra fillers that make it less expensive.

If you look at the ingredients list, it's very much not the same thing. Minced meat is meat, only. Ground beef is an "extended product", a lovely euphemism meaning that it's crammed with other much cheaper stuff to bulk it up.

Wendy Knowler, Consumer journalist

You're getting a whole lot less meat for your money than you think.

Wendy Knowler, Consumer journalist

While some of the food labelling on these meat products is misleading, it is not illegal.

The existing laws which regulate the definitions and contents of food products were repealed in May this year, leaving a gap for minced meat producers.

The government has not yet put in place the new definitions and criteria for food products, including raw processed meat, in the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act.

RELATED: The truth about '100% fruit juice' and why food labelling matters

Draft regulations propose that ground beef must contain at least 70% meat. It may also contain edible offal, colourants and food additives.

However, the drafts state that no additives are permitted in raw minced meat.

RELATED: Beware: Your favourite dairy substitutes may contain milk

Consultant dietician Karen Horsburgh says while new legal distinctions will soon be required for manufacturers, not all consumers can tell the difference.

Some misleading food labels could possibly place consumers with food allergies at risk, Horsburgh explains.

While food labelling laws remain in limbo, Horsburgh says consumers who feel misled should refer to the Consumer Protection Act.

Food scientists Dr Francois Mellett says the confusing labels appear to be deliberately deceptive.

Meanwhile, retailers argue that ground beef exists to cater to customers who need an affordable source of protein.

Listen to the investigation and insightful discussion to learn more on #ConsumerTalk:

Every Wednesday, on The Pippa Hudson Show, Wendy Knowler provides useful insights and tips on how to make the most of your buying power.

For more stories visit the ConsumerTalk feature page.

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Email:, put Cape Talk in the subject line, followed by the issue e.g. cellphone contract dispute.

Image: Pixabay.

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27 November 2019 3:57 PM

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