By Madelaine Miraflor
Days after the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) released an order directing local government units (LGUs) to allow the entry of uncooked processed meat from Luzon, samples taken from hotdog, longganisa, and tocino coming from a Manila-based company tested positive for African Swine Fever (ASF) virus.
A clinical laboratory report from the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) showed that some imported meat products including hotdog, longganisa, and tocino tested positive for ASF.
The samples, which were taken from a supply coming from a company based in Sta. Mesa, were tested by BAI Veterinarian Cristina Legaspi.
The report came days after DILG Sec. Eduardo M. Año issued a memorandum order on Monday, directing LGUs that “processed meat products that contain pork as ingredient either partially or fully shall be allowed to be distributed and sold in all provinces.”
However, he said this is subject to certain conditions. First, the processed pork meat products must be heated or fully cooked.
“The heat treatment of these processed meat products should be in accordance with ASF inactivation conditions set by the World Organization for Animal Health [OIE],” Año said.
Uncooked processed meat from Luzon is also now allowed to enter other areas, but processors and traders must first obtain either a shipping permit from BAI or a license to operate and certificate of product registration issued by Department of Health’s (DOH) Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
ASF, a fatal animal disease among hogs, is now in seven areas in Luzon – namely Cavite, Quezon City, Pangasinan, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, and Rizal – killing more than 62,000 hogs so far.
Pigs usually become infected by direct contact with infected pigs or by ingestion of garbage containing unprocessed infected pig meat or pig meat products. OIE noted that all processing procedures do not inactivate the ASF virus.
However, the Philippine Association of Meat Processors, Inc. (PAMPI), a group of local meat processors, said ASF virus is killed when subjected to 70 degrees heat for 30 minutes, also citing OIE data.
“And the fact that processed meats are cooked at temperatures higher than these assures the public that processed meat products are incapable of infecting pigs with ASF and are very safe for human consumption,” PAMPI said.
Implement Food Security Act
Meanwhile, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) Chairman Rosendo So is not happy with the result of BAI’s clinical laboratory report on some processed meat.
In a letter to Agriculture Secretary William Dar, Health Secretary Francisco Duque, and Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero, So urged these government officials to fully and properly implement the Food Safety Act of 2013 or Republic Act (RA) 10611.
Based on RA 10611, imported foods shall undergo cargo inspection and clearance procedures by the DA and the DOH at the first port of entry to determine compliance with national regulations.
The subsequent Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of RA 10611 also provides that the DA, DOH, and the Bureau of Customs should implement “Quarantine First Policy.”
“With the current African Swine Fever pandemic, it is high time that this provision of RA 10611 be realized and fulfilled,” So said. “We urge BOC [Bureau of Customs], DA, and DOH to fully implement this state policy that all containers with pork and pork-based imports and pork by-products should be examined and checked 100 percent at the port of first entry,” So said.
“We will not hesitate to file appropriate charges with the Ombudsman and other appropriate courts against those that have been remiss in ensuring the full implementation of Quarantine First Policy,” he added.
If such provision couldn’t be implemented at this time, So said the DA and FDA must first stop issuing Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) clearance for the importation of pork products.
On June 14, BAI also confirmed that canned goods seized at the Clark International Airport were contaminated with the ASF virus.