The leader of the South African Communist Party has accused poultry manufacturers of racism.
Blade Nzimande said that the poultry industry was selling “rotten” meat to black people.
He said chicken past its best-before date was being recycled – thawed, washed and injected with flavouring – then sold to shops in black townships.
A spokesman for the poultry industry admitted the practice takes place, but said it was both safe and legal.
The meat is removed from major chains of supermarkets and is re-distributed to spaza shops – smaller, family-run shops which serve black communities – and independent wholesalers.
“I can tell you now that more than 80% of ordinary black South Africans, they get their food from the spaza shops which means that you are actually selling rotten meat to black people,” Blade Nzimande said.
“We just find this deeply offensive and racist, frankly.”
A spokesman for the poultry industry agreed that the process of recycling chicken did take place, but said it was legal and that all manufacturers guaranteed the safety of their products.
“There’s nothing racist about this process,” Kevin Lovell told the BBC’s Martin Plaut.
He added that the chickens were tested and certified by the producers before being sent out again and that these standards were actually higher than those required by the department of health.
But he also accepted that re-worked chicken did not go on sale in major supermarkets, which served the country’s wealthier suburbs.
According to the South African Press Assocation, Mr Nzimande has called for an enquiry into the practice.