By Madelaine Miraflor
A top official of Pampanga-based Mekeni Food Corporation has denied that the company has been processing pork products that were contaminated by the African Swine Fever (ASF) virus, a highly contagious animal disease among hogs.
This was after the Department of Agriculture (DA) Spokesperson Noel Reyes confirmed on Thursday that there were indeed some processed meat products including hotdog, tocino, and longganisa that were tested positive for ASF and that these products were seized in Mindoro port.
And while Reyes won’t identify the brand of these products, a source said that these products came from Mekeni Food, a food and meat processing company in Pampanga, which is one of the areas that currently has ASF.
Reyes later on said that National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), an attached agency to DA, may recall all the products from the company involved in the issue.
To recall, ASF, a fatal animal disease among hogs, is now in seven areas in Luzon, including Cavite, Quezon City, Pangasinan, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, and Rizal.
Of this, Pampanga is one of the areas that were hit the hardest by ASF, recording more than 20,000 hog deaths.
In total, ASF has already resulted to the death and culling of as much as 62,200 hogs, still representing less than one percent of the country’s total hog population, which stood at 12.8 million hogs as of July.
Speaking to Manila Bulletin, Mekeni Food President Prudencio Garcia said he guarantees that all the raw materials that his company is using to process meat products have corresponding certificates and permits from the government.
“We are an ISO-certified company,” Garcia said. “I don’t know where this issue is coming from”.
Garcia said that based on NMIS report, Mekeni products may have been mixed with other products when being transported to Mindoro.
“We received reports that a team of Mindoro quarantine personnel along with NMIS [National Meant Inspection Service] and BAI [Bureau of Animal Industry] were able to apprehend hand-carried few items of tocino, hotdog, and other meat products [that were tested positive for ASF],” Reyes said on Thursday.
Reyes was quick to add that the volume of ASF-positive items that were seized is “just small” and was suspected to be delivered to a household from Central Luzon.
Though not harmful to humans, ASF, a highly contagious animal disease among pigs, poses a huge threat to the P260-billion local hog industry.
Pigs usually become infected by direct contact with infected pigs or by ingestion of garbage containing unprocessed infected pig meat or pig meat products. World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) noted that all processing procedures do not inactivate the ASF virus.
A clinical laboratory report from BAI showed the other day that some meat products including hotdog, longganisa, and tocino were tested positive for ASF.
The tests over the samples were conducted by BAI Veterinarian Cristina Legaspi.
However, the copy of the clinical laboratory report, which was obtained by, has been tampered, crossing out the name of the company responsible for transporting the ASF-positive processed meat products.
When asked about this, Reyes said it is now up to NMIS and Department of Health’s (DOH) Food and Drug and Administration (FDA) to provide that detail.
“That is a local company and those meat products weren’t imported. Maybe some of those products are even homemade,” Reyes said.
Reyes suspects that the raw material from these processed meat products came from ASF-hit areas.
“As you know, some backyard hog raisers from ASF-hit areas were trying to hide their pigs. They didn’t want them culled. Some have sold them to traders and traders bought them and then it was processed,” Reyes said.
Philippine Association of Meat Processors, Inc. (PAMPI), a group of local meat processors, pointed out earlier that ASF virus is killed when subjected to 70 degrees c for 30 minutes, also citing OIE data.
But on Thursday, PAMPI admitted that pork materials supplied to processors do not undergo ASF testing but are merely subjected to visual inspection NMIS.
“Due to the current situation where some processors operate plants in or near areas where ASF outbreaks occurred, PAMPI is leaving it up to individual members to decide whether to require ASF-testing for locally supplied pork materials or forego the same and take the risk of facing a situation where the finished product may be found later to be ASF-infected when tested,” PAMPI further said.
Mekeni is not a member of PAMPI.
Right now, the group is now urging BAI and all the government agencies tasked to handle the issue to “make a public disclosure of any action, such as the reported ASF-testing, to prevent unwanted speculations that could cause irreparable harm and injury to affected parties”.