June 30, 2014

Austin supermarket charged in meat mislabeling scandalStudents in Texas culinary arts programs might want to check their ingredients. MT Supermarket, an Austin grocer located in the Chinatown Shopping Center on North Lamar Boulevard, is facing a lawsuit from the Office of the Texas Attorney General following mislabeling a very specific sort of meat.

The suit brought against MT Supermarket alleges that the store knowingly sold beef reproductive organs to an undisclosed number of customers.  The cut of meat, known as “pizzle” in the cultures where it is consumed, is largely considered inedible. Here in the United States, pizzle is often used in dog treats or, occasionally, in the process of rendering some types of glue.

According to the report from the Attorney General’s office, the manager of MT, along with several other employees, took the pizzle from boxes that were clearly labeled as containing inedible meat. They then placed the meat in consumer-sized packages and re-labeled it as various other types of beef prior to shelving and selling it. Falsified labels were affixed to the packages to indicate that the meat was from a reputable source and had undergone typical inspection procedures.

The case is certainly not the first of its kind. Readers might remember Tesco, the UK grocer that faced legal action in 2013  after having almost 60 percent horse meat in their pre-packaged spaghetti bolognese, among other products. Tesco’s sales were reported by BBC as falling roughly 5 percent, though it’s hard to say how much of that deficit can be directly traced back to the horse meat scandal.

In some countries, pizzle is considered to have aphrodisiacal properties. When consumed in those cultures, the meat is typically first dried and then ground into small pieces before being served in certain soups and drinks. Specific types of pizzle, particularly that of deer, is thought by some to improve stamina and athletic ability. It was used in this manner at the 2008 Olympic Games by the Chinese national team.