MEAT PROCESSORS are disputing government claims of the detection of African Swine Fever (ASF) in sausages and cured meat, saying that the hog disease can only survive in live hogs and fresh pork.
They asked the government to give specifics on the producer of the meat products where ASF was found.
The Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) issued a laboratory report dated Oct. 15 which returned an ASF finding on products tested like tocino, hot dogs, and sausages. The copy of the report given to reporters did not reveal the manufacturer’s name.
Philippine Association of Meat Processors, Inc. Vice-President Jerome D. Ong told BusinessWorld in a phone interview that only “live hogs and fresh pork have been found to be infected with ASF, and it appears there is an effort to drag with them processed meat which are absolutely safe, and 100% ASF free.”
He said the industry wants the manufacturer identified because “we’re not even sure if it was made by a reputable manufacturer, or if it is a homemade brand.”
“While we acknowledge the authority and the competence of the Bureau of Animal Industry to conduct testing for the presence of the ASF virus, it is important that the manner of securing the samples is also transparent, with presence of all stakeholders and government authorities,” he said.
Department of Agriculture (DA) spokesman Noel O. Reyes confirmed that the products were processed by a medium-sized manufacturer, purchased in Central Luzon, and collected from a port in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro. He did not reveal the name of the manufacturer.
“We received reports that the team of Mindoro quarantine personnel along with NMIS (National Meat Inspection Service) and BAI were able to seize hand-carried items of tocino, hot dogs and other meat products. Kokonti lang, siguro pang home consumption (They were in small amounts, likely for home consumption),” he told reporters.
He said the DA is considering the possibility that hog raisers are keeping the condition of their pigs secret when they sell hogs to traders and manufacturers.
Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) Executive Director Jayson H. Cainglet reiterated the group’s position that processed meat products should not be allowed to cross into other jurisdictions without tests proving that the products are ASF-free.
He said in a text message the BAI finding “demolishes” the processing industry’s claim that ASF cannot be transmitted via processed products.
The hog raising industry is pressing local governments to maintain their bans on the movement of processed meat from ASF-affected areas in Luzon, putting them in conflict with the processors, who insist that their products cannot infect hogs when transported across borders.
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has officially instructed local governments to lift their bans on processed meat products if they are cooked or smoked at certain temperatures and for certain durations, which are assumed to render meat products safe.
The meat processors claim that losing freedom of movement could cost the industry P50 billion in lost sales, particularly with the industry’s strongest sales period — the year-end holidays — coming up.
SINAG has also asked the DA, Department of Health (DoH), and the Bureau of Customs (BoC) to test imported pork products for the disease.
“Importation (of pork) should only be allowed once it can be established that ASF virus testing for all pork imports and pork-based products can be undertaken at the port of first entry,” it said. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang