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'Skippy meat' scandal became global joke

Date

EWA KRETOWICZ

Australians were unwittingly fed donkey and goat meat.

Australians were unwittingly fed donkey and goat meat. Photo: Jim Rice

It started with an eagled-eyed food inspector in San Diego, California on July 27,1981 and almost destroyed the $1 billion a year beef export trade of Australia.

A vigilant food inspector became suspicious of three frozen blocks of imported Australian beef that looked "darker and stringier" than bona fide boneless beef should be.

Tests showed that this bogus "beef" from Australia was horse meat.

In the next few days more horse meat, and then some kangaroo meat, masquerading as Australian beef were found elsewhere in the United States.

By 15 August, the press in Australia and the United States had begun to probe and report on the "Meat Substitution Scandal" and the joke of ''skippy burgers'' was born.

To placate outraged Australians and unimpressed Americans Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser announced a Royal Commission into the meat industry led by the Honourable Mr Justice AE Woodward.

Justice Woodward's report was published in September 1982 and uncovered widespread meat substitution. More than 30 years after the report was released ''appendix h'' has finally become available to the public.

<i>Canberra Times</i> Editor-at-large Jack Waterford first requested the documents in December 1982.

At the time the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet deferred his request to allow for the completion of all ''criminal and quasi-criminal proceedings'' referred to in the document to conclude and noted Justice Woodward's clear instructions that he expected that the appendix would be published.

A second request to the department  was made by Waterford in August 2011. The response dated November 14, 2012 was not addressed in the time lines set out by the Freedom of Information Act.

The department granted access to the document tin full and said ''the delay in finalising a decision on the first part of the request is regretted.''

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