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Lack of clear rules to tackle swine fever outbreak hit

/ 04:52 AM September 21, 2019

A group of meat processors yesterday lamented the lack of “clear and unified” guidelines among various government agencies on addressing the African swine fever outbreak even as laboratory results confirmed additional cases of the disease, this time in Quezon City.

“Agriculture Secretary William Dar has ordered the implementation of quarantine and depopulation procedures in barangays Bagong Silangan and Payatas in Quezon City,” DA spokesperson Noel Reyes said.

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“This means [these areas] are ASF (African swine fever) positive and that the 1-7-10 protocol has been set in motion,” Reyes said.

Hog raisers within a 10-kilometer radius of the affected farms are required to report to authorities when their pigs show signs of the disease. Also, there will be monitoring of and limitation of the movement of pigs within a 7-kilometer radius. Pigs are not allowed to be brought outside a one-kilometer radius.

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In case of culling, hog raisers are provided P3,000 per head as indemnity.

In a media briefing, the Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (Pampi) appealed to the government to clarify and streamline the red tape among the departments of agriculture, health, trade and industry, and local government.

“Local government personnel are asking our members for documents from the DA that shows we are allowed to move our products and are free of the African swine fever,” Pampi spokesperson Rex Agarrado said.

“We can’t do that because processed meat is no longer supervised by the DA,” Agarrado said. “Since the National Food Security Act took effect three years ago, processed meat has been the responsibility of the Department of Health, but the locals apparently do not know this.”

The DOH does so through the Food and Drug Administration. The DA, through the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), makes sure that meats from slaughtered animals are safe before these are sent out to markets.

Meat processors felt the repercussions of African swine fever outbreak in the Philippines when the provincial government of Cebu and Bohol, earlier this week, adopted a total ban on pork products from outside their boundaries.

Meanwhile, according to the DA, meat and meat products—with appropriate NMIS seal and veterinary health certificate issued by the Bureau of Animal Industry and veterinary offices of local government units—sold in public markets are safe for human consumption.

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“Our products are safe because, as the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) states, the African swine fever virus is rendered inactive by heat of 56 degrees centrigrade for 70 minutes or 60 degrees centigrade for 20 minutes,” Agarrado said.

“In fact, processed pork-based products are cooked at temperatures ranging from 70 degrees to 116 degrees for 40-60 minutes,” he added. “At these cooking temperatures and cooking time, the virus is killed.”

Pampi president Jerome Ong said the total ban in Cebu and Bohol could slash the P300-billion domestic processed meat industry by 10 to 15 percent—losses of about P30 billion to P45 billion.

“What’s more, seasonal hiring may be affected because—in [my own] company alone— we have decided to reduce production of Christmas ham by 15 to 20 percent,” said Ong, who is president and chief executive of CDO Foodsphere Inc.

According to Pampi, their members hire about 10,000 temporary workers toward the Christmas season for the production of ham.

Pampi members account for a total of 150,000 direct hires plus about 500,000 jobs in allied businesses—their suppliers and other operations that thrive in the processed meat industry.

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TAGS: African swine fever, ASF, William Dar
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