Gov’t campaign worries local meat importers
Meat importers yesterday decried the government’s campaign that was affecting their products, saying that meat inspectors should instead follow internationally accepted rules and practices related to the industry.
“The National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) should stop comparing imported frozen pork with ‘botcha’ (or substandard meat]),” said Jess Cham, president of the Meat Importers & Traders Association Inc. (Mita).
“[Our products] can only come from approved foreign meat establishments, whose facilities and protocols have been inspected and whose products have been certified as wholesome by the food safety agencies of the exporting countries and duly recognized by the Philippine government,” Cham said in a briefing.
He said members of Mita source their meat from the United States, Canada and some European countries like Germany, France, Belgium, United Kingdom, Spain, The Netherlands and Brazil.
Representatives of the embassies of the US and Canada, as well as the European Delegation, were present during the briefing.
Mita takes issue in that the NMIS considers imported frozen pork as unsafe and believes that imported meat spoils faster than meat from freshly slaughtered animals from local farms.
The group said the NMIS had no scientific basis to categorically declare imported meat unsafe.
In a telephone interview, NIMS director Minda Manantan said the agency’s activities were “backed by laws” which were in turn based on internationally accepted safety standards.
“We cannot just go seizing products which are private property,” Manantan said. “We can do that only with the backing of the law.”
According to Cham, the problem of importers stemmed from the two Administrative Orders that the Department of Agriculture issued in 2012.
One is DA-AO No. 5 which spells out rules on “the hygienic handling of newly slaughtered meat in meat markets, and DA-AO No. 6 which lays down rules on the “hygienic handling of chilled, frozen and thawed meat in meat markets.”
“They devised distinctions between frozen and fresh meat even if the law treats these two categories to be the same,” Cham said in an interview after the briefing.
He was referring to Republic Act No. 9296 or the Meat Inspection Code of 2004.
The law defines fresh meat as animal flesh that “not yet been treated in any way other than by modified atmosphere packaging or vacuum packaging.”
“If the NMIS continues with its obviously programmed campaign for the holiday season to confiscate legally traded and approved imported frozen pork, (the agency is) is effectively denying consumers their right to access safe, nutritious, economical and affordable food,” Cham said.
“The government is actually hurting the poor, especially during this Christmas season, by denying them their rights to food and livelihood,” he added.
Cham said that since the importation of frozen pork was allowed in 1996, there has never been any single documented case of sickness arising from the consumption of such products.
Also, Mita cites two studies conducted by SGS Philippines in 2012, which show that all samples of frozen meat passed safety standards while some samples of locally slaughtered meat from wet markets failed.
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