As a precautionary measure, the Philippine government has imposed a temporary ban on the importation of poultry meat from Brazil after COVID-19 was detected on chicken wings imported from the Latin American country to Shenzhen, China.
In response to news reports that Chinese authorities detected SARS-COV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19, on chicken wings imported from Brazil, Agriculture Secretary William Dar signed a memorandum order imposing the temporary ban.
For issuing the order, Dar cited Section 10 of Republic Act 10611, or the Food Safety Act of 2013, which states that “in specific circumstances when the available relevant information use for in risk assessment is insufficient to show that a certain type of food or food product does not pose a risk to consumer health, precautionary measures shall be adopted.”
Brazil is currently the world’s largest poultry meat exporter and fourth pork exporter.
In 2018, the country exported 4.1 million metric tons (MT) of chicken meat to 160 countries and 646,000 MT of pork meat to 70 countries.
From January to July last year, Brazil had exported 30.4 thousand MT of chicken meat worth US$15 million to the Philippines, while it shipped 2,700 MT of pork worth US$4 million, data from Brazilian Association of Animal Protein (ABPA) showed.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that there are more than 3 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in Brazil with 103,026 deaths.
Right now, the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) attached agencies, Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), have been actively monitoring COVID-19 related outbreaks in foreign meat establishments (FMEs).
One of the primary considerations by the DA in the accreditation of FMEs for importation of meat into the country is the health status of workers in compliance with good manufacturing practices (GMP).
Meanwhile, the DA assured the public that chicken products currently in the Philippine market are safe to eat and strongly urges the public to verify sources of information with either BAI or the NMIS for proper guidance.
Since this is a COVID-19 issue related to public health, workers engaged in meat establishments, poultry dressing plants, slaughterhouses and meat processing plants are required to report to the Department of Health (DOH) any unusual sickness.
The DA also strongly recommends that poultry farm and slaughterhouse owners should consult their respective licensed veterinarians to observe farm biosafety and biosecurity measures.
The NMIS has issued guidelines and is monitoring the implementation of strategies to prevent and control the transmission of COVID-19 in meat establishments.
WHO already said before that there is no evidence to support transmission of the COVID-19 virus associated with food.
Meanwhile, following a report of COVID-19 being found on the packaging of imported seafood that recently arrived at the port city of Yantai in China, the DA’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) also told the public to observe proper sanitary practices when handling and preparing food.
In a statement, BFAR said that as advised by the DOH, goods bought from the market must be disinfected with alcohol or 0.5 percent bleach solution, while fresh food must be washed with clean, running water before storage.
“Food must also be cooked thoroughly and kept at safe temperatures before consumption,” BFAR said.