Food firm voluntarily withdraws pork products from market after testing positive for African Swine Fever.
THE Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Health through the Food and Drug Administration (DOH-FDA) yesterday revealed that the processed meat products which were confiscated last month from a traveler from Batangas and tested positive for African Swine Fever (ASF) were made by Mekeni Food Corporation.
The DA’s National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) had conducted tests on the samples they collected from Mekeni’s processing plant, where the seized processed meat products came from.
A composite veterinary and quarantine team had arrested a traveler from Batangas who was carrying a package of branded and unbranded processed pork products at Calapan Port on October 6.
The seized Mekeni longanisa and Picnic hotdog products were positive for ASF, based on tests conducted by the DA Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Central Luzon (RADDL III), on October 25.
The DA’s Bureau of Animal Industry Veterinary Laboratory Division (DA-BAI-VLD) then conducted two validation tests as requested by the manufacturer. Again, the same products — skinless longanisa and picnic hotdog—tested positive for ASF viral DNA.
The DA said that it decided to reveal the name of the manufacturer to end consumers’ speculations that may affect other processed pork products by other meat processors.
“The DA, however, commends the management of Mekeni for recalling their products from the market even before the laboratory tests were concluded,” DA Secretary William Dar said.
Mekeni Food Corporation, for its part, vowed to trace the source of the virus that was recently found in samples of its skinless longganisa and hotdog.
“Despite this unfortunate development, we assure government that we will continue to cooperate in its ongoing investigation to determine the source of ASF,” it said in a statement.
The company pointed out that it has always fully complied with all regulations and certifications set by authorities in the past 32 years of its operations.
According to Mekeni, all the pork-based products it pulled out from the market on October 26 were already quarantined.
Meanwhile, the pork products in the two cargo containers from China that were apprehended two weeks ago at the Port of Manila also tested positive for ASF by the DA-BAI Laboratory.
The DA, through the BAI and NMIS assured the public that it will continue to work closely with the DOH-FDA to sustain the monitoring of all meat products and ensure that all food sold in the country is safe for human consumption.
“While ASF is not a human health concern, our Food Safety Act of 2013 mandates that meat from diseased animals must not be used for food, or for manufacturing food products for human consumption,” Dar added.
It is a crime to sell, trade or slaughter sick or dead pigs for meat or for processed pork products. Violators face imprisonment from six to 12 years or a fine of P100,000 to P1 million or both.
The DA has previously issued guidelines to effectively manage, control and contain ASF, requiring all pigs, sick or not, within the one-kilometer ASF-declared zone, to be surrendered to the local government unit and BAI for culling, which is called for under the globally-accepted “1-7-10” protocol.
The DA reiterates its call for steps against ASF:
For small backyard raisers - Report to your City, Municipal or Provincial veterinarian any sign of disease or deaths of pigs in their area. Refrain from swill feeding, particularly those from airlines, hotels and restaurants. Do not slaughter sick or dead pigs and sell the meat to traders;
For traders - not to buy and slaughter sick pigs. Any backyard or illegal slaughtering, or use of meat from infected pigs will contribute to the spread of the disease, and will only result in further deaths, and losses to the P260-billion swine industry that supports millions of Filipinos.
For the public - Pork is safe to eat. When buying pork in the market or meat shops, always look for the seal and certificate issued by the DA-NMIS.