Zambeef is in trouble. The company, Zambia’s largest and most successful agribusiness, has been been accused of importing meat from the UK, the US and Ireland containing traces of aromatic aldehyde*. A Post Newspaper report stated that the chemical “is used to embalm dead bodies and can cause organ cancer in humans.”
Zambeef says the allegations are nothing more than “a smear campaign by a disgruntled former employee.” The company has nevertheless withdrawn the roughly 2 per cent of meat products it imports from butcheries across the country.
The company is on trial most pointedly on social media. From calling for the business to be shut down to changing the logo to read “Zambeef: Poisoning the Nation”, online users have been quick to express their mistrust and anger at the allegations. This is odd because tests on the suspected infected meat products are yet to be conclusive and so the company is technically not yet guilty. Health Minister Joseph Kasonde has threatened government legal action.
In my opinion, there is more to this story than meets the eye. Is this a case of political powerplay or simply a company behaving badly? All is yet to be revealed.
Zambeef is listed on the Lusaka Stock Exchange (LuSE) and the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) Exchange in London. It operates across Zambia and has expanded to Ghana and Nigeria in recent years. Its shares dropped yesterday.
*Aromatic aldehyde: this chemical has a variety of uses including use in agricultural and pharmaceutical products used for fragrance and flavouring. To simply state that it is “used to embalm dead bodies and can cause organ cancer in humans” is scaremongering. Instead journalists must inform people of the chemical’s other uses as opposed to the one most likely to whip up negative feeling towards Zambeef.