Cape Town - The National Consumer Commission is to probe the incorrect labelling of meat products, acting government spokesperson Phumla Williams said on Thursday.
Briefing the media following Cabinet's fortnightly Wednesday meeting, she said the executive had noted reports creating alarm and panic on the incorrect labelling of such products.
The Consumer Protection Act set out general standards for marketing goods and services, she said.
"It stipulates that parties in the supply chain must not market any goods or services in a manner that is likely to imply false or misleading representation concerning those goods and services."
As a result of the research findings of a study group at Stellenbosch University, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies had asked the National Consumer Commission to conduct an urgent investigation into the matter.
"This is because this matter may have far and wide-ranging implications and impact on the broader consumer public," Williams said.
According to the study by Stellenbosch University scientists, goat, water buffalo, and donkey meat had been found in food products including sausages, "dried meats", burger patties, and mincemeat.
"In other cases, even undeclared plant matter was detected," the university said on its news blog on Tuesday.
"The study found that anything from soya, donkey, goat, and water buffalo were to be found in up to 68% of the 139 minced meats, burger patties, deli meats, sausages, and dried meats that were tested."
Soya and gluten were present in 28% of the samples.
The university said the products tested were mislabelled and the true ingredients were not declared on the packaging.
The study was published in the international Food Control journal, and was carried out by Dr Donna-Maree Cawthorn and Professor Louw Hoffman from the university's animal sciences department.
In the blog, Hoffman is quoted as saying: "Our study confirms that the mislabelling of processed meats is commonplace in South Africa and not only violates food labelling regulations, but also... (may have) economic, religious, ethical and health impacts."
The products tested were collected from retail outlets and butcheries, and various DNA-based molecular techniques were used to evaluate the meat products.
"Our findings raise significant concern on the functioning of the meat supply chain in South Africa," said Hoffman.
"Even though we have local regulations that protect consumers from being sold falsely described or inferior foodstuffs, we need these measures to be appropriately enforced."