By Madelaine B. Miraflor
After being dragged into the African swine fever (ASF) issue, Pampanga’s Mekeni Food Corporation is now questioning the government’s safety protocols on processed meat.
“If there is a contamination in our product, then we are the victim,” Mekeni Food President Prudencio Garcia said in a phone interview.
Garcia said this after his company’s name was dragged into the issue of some processed meat products being contaminated by ASF virus, a fatal animal disease among hogs.
The products – mostly hotdogs, longganisa, and tocino – were seized at the Mindoro port the other day and was later on tested by the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI).
And while DA spokesman Noel Reyes won’t identify the brand of these products, an industry source suddenly floated the name of Mekeni, a food and meat processing company in Pampanga, as one of the brands that were tested positive for ASF.
This came out of nowhere, Garcia said in his defense. He said all his company’s processes and products are within the required standards of the government.
He now suspects that his products may have been mixed with other brands when being transported to Mindoro, a thought he shares with the DA’s National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS).
“I guarantee that all my products have certificates and permits. They have traceability and for the imported raw materials that we use, I can assure that they have all the SPS [Sanitary and Phytosanitary] permits,” Garcia said.
“We maintain that all our raw meats are strictly inspected by the National Meat Inspection Service and have all the required certifications from regulatory bodies,” he added.
For all of these things to happen, Garcia now thinks there is “something wrong with the [government’s] protocol.”
“Maybe there is a problem in the quarantine process,” Garcia reiterated. “I suggest that all the processed meat products must be tested [because] we’re following all the protocols and we are ISO certified.”
Reacting to the same issue, Philippine Association of Meat Processors, Inc. (PAMPI), which is composed of 36 active member processors that supply 80 percent of the country’s total domestic demand for processed meat, said the other day that pork materials supplied to processors do not undergo ASF testing but are merely subjected to visual inspection NMIS.
“Due to the current situation where some processors operate plants in or near areas where ASF outbreaks occurred, PAMPI is leaving it up to individual members to decide whether to require ASF-testing for locally supplied pork materials or forego the same and take the risk of facing a situation where the finished product may be found later to be ASF-infected when tested,” PAMPI said.
Mekeni is not a member of PAMPI.
“For everyone’s peace of mind, we are doing everything that we can to validate this issue and have full transparency on the testing procedure conducted by BAI,” Garcia later on said in a statement.
ASF is now in seven areas in Luzon – including Cavite, Quezon City, Pangasinan, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, and Rizal – killing more than 62,000 hogs.
Of this, Pampanga is one of the areas that were hit the hardest by ASF, recording more than 20,000 hog deaths.
Though not harmful to humans, ASF, a highly contagious animal disease among pigs, poses a huge threat to the ₱260-billion local hog industry.
Pigs usually become infected by direct contact with infected pigs or by ingestion of garbage containing unprocessed infected pig meat or pig meat products. World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) noted that all processing procedures do not inactivate the ASF virus.
PAMPI, however, claims that ASF virus is killed when subjected to 70 degrees c for 30 minutes, also citing OIE data.
“Our products are ASF free and safe to eat.”