FDA orders recall of pork products from African Swine Fever-affected countries

Marje Pelayo   •   May 28, 2019   •   3326

MANILA, Philippines – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ordered a market recall of all pork-based products that are manufactured from countries affected by the deadly pig virus African Swine Fever (ASF).

The recall order includes canned goods like luncheon meat and processed pork with manufacturing date from August 2018 when the country’s import ban on pork took effect, up to present.

The agency also calls on traders not to sell these products anymore.

According to Health Undersecretary and FDA Officer-In-Charge Eric Domingo, ASF is highly contagious and the risk is high especially when contamination spreads into the country’s swine industry.

Domingo noted a recent study which reveals the possibility that the ASF virus could still survive even the highest temperature during processing.

Though there is no recorded proof of human transmission, the ASF virus present in processed pork or pork-based products may pose a threat to live pigs.

“In this case we are banning this product primarily because of food security. Mabilis kasing mag-spread itong African Swine Flu (spreads easily) and it affects live stocks,” Domingo said.

The FDA has rolled out an investigation as to how the pork products were able to enter the country despite the Department of Agriculture (DA)’s import ban that started in August 2018.

Domingo added that since the import ban took effect, the issuance of import permit was also put on hold thus the entry of such items was definitely questionable.

Wala naman kasi na ibinibigay na certificate of product registration ang DA since late last year so hindi na dapat iyan naipapasok sa Pilipinas,” he explained.

(The DA no longer issues certificates of product registration since last year so those items shouldn’t have entered the Philippines.)

African Swine Fever (ASF) cases were first reported in Africa and several European countries.

The outbreak of the virus also killed millions of pigs in China last year.

Just this year, the virus further spread to its neighboring countries Mongolia, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

Based on record from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, the ASF virus has already killed about 2.6 million pigs in the mentioned countries.

“Ipinakikiusap namin sa mga nagtitinda na mismo kung meron silang mga produkto na mga meat products na de lata na nanggaling doon sa mga bansa na binanggit natin, sana i-recall na nila,” Domingo appeals to traders.

(We are calling all traders to have the initiative to recall the meat products and canned goods themselves particularly those which came from the ASF-affected countries.)

“Sila na mismo itago na nila. Huwag na nilang ibenta at i-report nila sa amin para ma-trace natin kung saan nanggaling at make sure lang na hindi na po ito kumalat,” he added.

(Have the initiative to pull them out of the store shelves. Do not sell them anymore and report to us so we may be able to trace their origin and also to make sure we prevent the spread of the virus.)

At present, the DA’s Bureau of Quarantine has foot baths in place at international airports across the country for passengers coming from ASF-affected countries.

These will caution passengers of the preventive measures the government is taking to prevent the spread of the deadly pig virus.

“Posibleng hindi nakarating sa kanila. Posibleng hindi nila nabasa. But upon arriving at the airport of entry, sinabihan ka ng Quarantine (officer) na hindi pwede, magpupumilit ka ba? At ang gagamitin mong dahilan ay hindi mo alam? Hindi pwdeng ganun,” Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said.

(It may not have reached their knowledge or possibly have not read about the ban, but upon arriving at the airport and the quarantine officer tells you that those items are banned, would you still insist? Would you still reason out that you didn’t know about it? It doesn’t work that way.)

The agency will request for additional K9 units as well as the installation of x-ray machines to screen passengers’ baggage.

Confiscated banned products will be destroyed or burned, according to DA. – (with details from Rey Pelayo)

DA to review Rice Tariffication law as Phl ranks as world’s biggest rice importer

Maris Federez   •   November 12, 2019

Filipino port workers unload sacks of rice, which are imported from Vietnam to be distributed by the National Food Authority (NFA), inside a ship docked at Surigao port, Mindanao, southern Philippines, 15 April 2008. EPA-EFE/ALANNAH TORRALBA (FILE)

MANILA, Philippines – A United States agency report reveals that the Philippines has become the world’s biggest importer of rice, just months after the rice tariffication bill was enacted.

The US Department of Agriculture – Foreign Agricultural Service report also projected that the Philippines will have imported a total of 3-million metric tons of rice before the year ends.

This is 58% higher compared to the 1.9-million metric tons of rice that the country imported in 2018.

The Philippine reportedly outranked China – the biggest rice importer– which is expected to import 2.5 metric tons of rice.

The Department of Agriculture record, however, said that this early, the Philippines has already imported 2.99 million metric tons from January to October.

DA spokesperson Noel Reyes added that 1.8 million metric tons of the total amount of rice that the country has imported were placed after the enactment of the rice tariffication bill in March.

“We cannot restrict. Kasi kung ire-restrict mo ‘yan, we are going against the law, unless the law says, we can only import so much,” Reyes said.

The DA admitted that there may have been an over-importation of rice in the country.

Because of this, DA Secretary William Dar and Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food Chairperson Cynthia Villar are planning to review the said law.

“That’s the feeling of the department because of the complaints of farmers and farmers groups,” Reyes said.

“That’s the wish of the secretary and Senator Villar after a year, they have to review the RTL (Rice Tariffication Law) and probably put in some more provisions so as not to over-exceed our rice requirements,” he added.

Several farmer groups share the same sentiment.

The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) said the government must raise the rice importation tariff and focus on increasing the presence of local rice in the market.

“Kapag dumating na ‘yung panahon na naubos na ‘yung sobra, pwede naman nilang tanggalin ‘yung additional tariff na ‘yun para magpasok ulit ng imported. Ganun sana ang laro nila,” said Raul Montemayor, FFF National Manager.

“Parang gusto nating mamatay ‘yung magsasaka, na wala tayong nilagay na control sa import, pasok lang ng pasok ‘yung importation, pabagsak ng pabagsak ang palay, at parang napakahina ‘yung response ng gobyerno,” he added.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), on the other hand, believes that the Rice Tariffication Law must be scrapped.

The group said the latest record of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) shows that the farm gate price of palay (grains) is now at P15 per kilo.

The KMP, however, said there are still several areas in the country where farmers sell their produce at P10 per kilo.

“Hindi na rin po namimili ang National Food Authority kasi po sa ilalim po ng Rice Tarrification and Liberalization Law, hindi na po sila mamimili ng palay sa magsasaka kaya po lalo pong binabarat ng mga malalaking traders at cartels,” said KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos.

In a statement, Bantay Bigas group spokesperson Cathy Estavillo said that they have been giving warning that the rice tariffication law will gravely affect the local farmers.

 “As we have decried repeatedly, RA 11203 will turn Filipinos into beggars of imported rice.  We all have witnessed this law causing bankruptcy to rice farmers, and this will lead to displacement and ultimately declined productivity,” Estavillo said.

To date, the price of a regular milled local rice is somewhere between P35 and P38 per kilo in several marketplaces in Quezon City.

The DA, on the other hand, is confident that the price of rice will continue to go down to P30 per kilo.

The agency also sees a downward trend in rice importation by next year as the local production improves. (from the report of Harlene Delgado) /mbmf

FDA, NMIS checks on meat processing plants for African Swine Fever

Marje Pelayo   •   November 8, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) have been doing rounds in meat processing plants across the country.

According to Health Undersecretary and FDA Officer-In-Charge Eric Domingo, there is a total of 178 meat processing plants in the Philippines.

Tests have been conducted in 68 of these facilities and the results were negative of African Swine Fever (ASF).

“Tinitingnan natin ang kanilang mga planta tapos ang kanilang mga documents kung meron silang mga inspection at saka kung pasado sila sa lahat ng standards (We check their plants as well as their documents to determine if they do regular inspections and if they pass all the standards),” Domingo said.

The FDA is coordinating with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for assistance in monitoring supplies in local public markets in relation to the ASF.

Domingo admitted that it is difficult to identify if a product is infected with ASF that’s why it is better to choose a brand that is FDA registered.

One popular delicacy during holidays is the cured or glazed ham.

According to a retailers’ group, they already have taken orders of ham but only a minimal volume as compared to last year.

One reason for this is consumers’ fear of the outbreak of ASF virus.

“What is a bit difficult to estimate right now is how much ham should we order and how much ham will people buy,” lamented Steve Cua, President of the Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association.

Still, Usec. Domingo said ASF-infected meat may still be consumed.

“Hindi naman po ito nakakahawa ng sakit sa tao (ASF is not transferrable to humans),” Domingo clarified.

“Kaya po natin siya talaga pinipigilan kasi ayaw nating kumalat sa iba pa pong hayop sa Pilipinas (The reason for prevention is because we do not want it to infect other animals in the Philippines),” he concluded. MNP (with details from Rey Pelayo)

DepEd urged to heighten measures vs consumption of ASF-tainted products in schools

Robie de Guzman   •   November 8, 2019

 Filipino children are seen in front of a school in Manila, Philippines, 08 October 2019 (issued 11 October 2019). EPA-EFE/FRANCIS R. MALASIG

MANILA, Philippines – A senator has urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to heighten precautionary measures to prevent students from consuming pork products tainted with African Swine Fever (ASF) in schools.

In a statement, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said DepEd should exercise vigilance following reports that processed pork meats from China tested positive for ASF, as well as some skinless longganisa and hotdog products from local manufacturer, Mekeni.

“Sa mga feeding program na isinasagawa ng DepEd, halimbawa, dapat siguruhin ng ating mga guro na gumagamit sila ng mga malinis at mapagkakatiwalaang mga produktong ipakakain sa mga bata,” he said in a statement.

While ASF does not pose a threat to human health, the senator said schools should raise awareness and exhaust all sanitary measures to protect students from ASF-contaminated products.

Gatchalian also cited an advisory from the Department of Health which identified uncooked and undercooked contaminated pork as a source of ASF’s spread in swine herds.

Health authorities said the swine disease is introduced into a herd when contaminated raw pork is ingested by a pig. The virus spreads when contaminated pigs get into direct contact with other pigs.

Food waste, feed, and garbage can also cause ASF when ingested by pigs.

“Etong mga hakbang na maaari nating gawin, nagsisimula ito sa responsableng pamimili at lubos na pagluluto ng karne sa mga paaralan. Ito ay upang maiwasan natin ang pagkakasakit ng mga mag-aaral pati na rin ang pagkalat pa ng ASF,” he said.

The Department of Agriculture earlier said that the illegal importation of pork products from China was responsible for the spread of the ASF virus in the country.

Gatchalian also urged DepEd to involve parents in efforts to raise awareness on sanitary practices and preventive measures.

“While schools play an important role to protect our students’ health, it is important that we also extend our efforts at the household level. Kahit gawin ng mga paaralan ang lahat ng pwedeng gawin kung hindi naman nababantayan sa mga bahay nila, malalagay pa rin sa panganib ang ating mga estudyante,” he said.

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