By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The country’s largest meat processors have assured the public that locally processed meat products are safe for human consumption as they sought to allay fears from the impact of the government’s pronouncement on African Swine Fever (ASF) and its decision to seize all imported canned meat products.
In a statement over the weekend, Philippine Association of Meat Processors, Inc. (PAMPI) assured the public that locally processed meat products such as canned meat and hotdogs do not contain meat materials from countries infected by ASF.
PAMPI issued the statement to assuage concerns over the spread of ASF to nearby countries and following a nationwide campaign of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to recall processed meat products purportedly imported from ASF-infected countries.
ASF is a fatal animal disease affecting pigs and wild boars with up to 100 percent mortality, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. Countries affected by disease include China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia and North Korea.
PAMPI President Felix Tiukinhoy said most of the ASF-infected countries do not export meat products to the Philippines.
The local meat processing industry reported annual sales of more than P300 billion and provides direct employment to 150,000 people.
Tiukinhoy then urged the FDA to be cautious and specific in its pronouncements which could lead to confusion and uncertainty among consumers.
He said recall orders should be product specific, pointing out that FDA should identify the brands and countries of origin. This is instead of issuing general statements that are not helpful to consumers but are prejudicial to local manufacturers, he said.
According to him, locally produced meat products are displayed in supermarkets and groceries along with imported products which could lead to confusion among consumers.
There is now a plan among PAMPI members to work out a system with supermarket operators to institutionalize the segregation of local processed meats from imported items.
No cases of ASF had been detected in the Philippines so far. But all the entry points in the Philippine already tightened security versus the potential entry of the deadly pork disease.
The country’s local hog industry is currently valued at P240 billion, raising 28 million heads every year. Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said this is something that the Philippines must protect otherwise it could affect the country’s food supply.