Buffalo burger?

South African researchers have found evidence of water buffalo in some mislabeled meats. (Steve Yeater / Associated Press)

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You think “beef” burgers with horse meat are bad? A new study out of South Africa shows that two-thirds of meat sold at supermarkets and butcheries contain unlabeled amounts of donkey, goat, water buffalo and other mystery ingredients.

Researchers from the University of Stellenbosch found elements of surprise in up to 68% of 139 samples of minced meats, burger patties, deli and dried meats, and sausages from retail outlets and smaller meat outlets.  

About 28% of products didn't list on the packaging that they contained soy and gluten – both common allergens. Hidden pork was in 37% of the test items; chicken in nearly a quarter.

Other unexpected guests included donkey, goat, water buffalo and the ominously-described “undeclared plant matter.”  

“Our study confirms that the mislabeling of processed meats is commonplace in South Africa and not only violates food labeling regulations, but also poses economic, religious, ethical and health impacts,” said co-author and professor Louw Hoffman of the university’s animal sciences department.

The results were published in the international Food Control journal.

The discovery of a veritable menagerie in South African groceries mirrors the rapidly expanding scandal in Europe over mislabeled beef with traces of horse meat.

Burger King, Nestle, Tesco and other major names are embroiled in a cycle of investigations and outrage over equine DNA in products sold as cow meat. On Monday, Czech inspectors said they found horse meat in Ikea’s popular Swedish meatballs.

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