By Madelaine Miraflor
Pampanga-based food and meat processor Mekeni Food Corporation could lose its license to sell processed pork products if the government finds out that the company has failed to follow the country’s food safety standards.
This, as further tests conducted by the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) confirmed that specific batches of two of Mekeni’s products — Mekeni Picnic Hotdog Regular 500g and Mekeni Skinless Longaniza (Uncooked) 200g — indeed have deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) traces of African swine fever (ASF).
On Monday, Health Undersecretary and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Officer-In-Charge Eric Domingo said his agency already wrote to Mekeni to explain why their products have been contaminated with ASF.
“We are just waiting for their response,” Domingo said. “After investigation, we can file an administrative case against them or possibly revoke their license to sell pork products”.
Mekeni’s response to FDA’s letter should be made available this week, he further said.
For its part, Mekeni Food assured the government that it will continue to cooperate in its ongoing investigation.
“We will also actively support the review of current protocols on issuing certifications for both local and imported raw meats,” the company said in a statement.
While only specific batches of its products were found to have DNA traces of ASF, all of Mekeni’s pork-based products have already been pulled out from all its selling areas when it initiated a voluntary recall.
These products are currently quarantined and a batch sampling has been submitted to an independent laboratory for ASF testing, Mekeni said.
“Operations of our pork-based processing area had been suspended since 26 October 2019, and the facility has been cleansed and disinfected. A third-party company had also been engaged to do swabbing and testing of the facility before we resume operations," Mekeni said.
"These measures are part of our commitment to support the government in its campaign to control the further spread of the ASF that is threatening the hog industry,” it added.
Two weeks ago, Mekeni President Prudencio Garcia questioned the government's safety protocols on processed meat.
“If there is a contamination in our product, then we are the victim,” said Garcia.
He 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 were later on tested by BAI.
And while DA Spokesperson Noel Reyes won’t identify the brand of these products, an industry source suddenly floated the name of Mekeni 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 were within the required standards of the government.
He suspected that Mekeni’s 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 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 was “something wrong with the protocol”.
“Maybe there is a problem in the quarantine process,” Garcia reiterated. “I suggest that all the processed meat products must be tested we’re following all the protocols and we are ISO certified”.