‘Unified’ rules for processed meat sought amid ASF scare

A man at a meat stall takes a peek at a slice of roasted pork belly, a popular fare among Filipinos, in this file photo taken on June 22, 2019.

By Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas & Butch Fernandez

THE country’s top meat processors urged the government to issue unified national guidelines for the transport of processed meat products after their shipments were disallowed in some provinces due to the African swine fever (ASF) scare.

The Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (Pampi) made this appeal after submitting to Cabinet Secretaries the unified guidelines it proposed to resolve the disruption in the local processed meat trade.

Relatedly, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said it will, through the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), spend a P78-million emergency fund to effectively manage, control, and contain the threat of ASF. The fund will prioritize biosecurity and quarantine operations, disease monitoring and surveillance, upgrading of laboratories, capacity building and other disease control measures.

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar on Wednesday said the National ASF Task Force (NATF) will also convene to flesh out interagency coordination, in partnership with concerned local government units (LGUs) and the private sector.

The BusinessMirror earlier reported that processed meat products, such as hot dogs and bacon, from big firms like San Miguel Food and Beverage, CDO Foodsphere Inc. (CDO) and Pampanga’s Best, were disallowed in some Luzon provinces.

Some LGUs barred processed meat products following the DA confirmation that the dreaded ASF struck hog farms in Rizal and Bulacan.

Pampi told the BusinessMirror that more LGUs have issued their own guidelines to prevent the entry of ASF in their areas. However, the group noted that some of these guidelines included the banning of pork products, which affected their members.

Rex Agarrado, Pampi spokesman, said provinces that banned pork-related products, such as Cebu and Negros Occidental, may now be experiencing a shortfall in the supply of processed meat products.


“We earnestly request that unified national guidelines be adopted immediately to ensure that individual LGUs do not enforce rules that are inconsistent or contradictory,” Pampi said in its letter dated September 16, a copy of which was obtained by the BusinessMirror.

The letter was signed by Pampi President Felix O. Tiukinhoy Jr. and Vice President Jerome D. Ong and was sent to Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez and Interior Secretary Eduardo M. Año.

Under Pampi’s proposed guidelines, processed meat products that do not contain pork as raw material or ingredient, should be “allowed unrestricted movement and distribution in all provinces.” These products include corned beef, beef  hot dogs, chicken nuggets, chicken hot dogs, among others.

“Upon demand, LTO [license to operate] and/or Certificate of Product Registration issued by the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] to the manufacturer to be shown to quarantine authorities, should suffice,” the Pampi proposal read.

Domestic trade of processed meat products containing pork as ingredient should not be hampered if these are heat-treated or fully cooked and abide with international guidelines of meat processing to inactivate the ASF virus.

“The OIE [World Organisation for Animal Health] has ruled that the ASF virus is inactivated by heat at 56 degrees Celsius for 70 minutes or 60 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes,” the document read.

The proposed guidelines require Pampi members to adhere to internationally accepted standards in processing meat and inactivating the ASF virus:

■ Cooking canned meat products at 116 degrees Celsius for at least 60 minutes;

■  Hot dogs are processed or smoked to a core temperature of at least 72 degrees Celsius for over one hour;

■ Hams and bacon being cooked to a core temperature of at least 72 degrees Celsius over one hour; and

■ Smoked pork sausages are cooked to a core temperature of at least 72 degrees Celsius for at least 40 minutes.

Also, meat processors will be asked to present pertinent documents, such as the veterinary health certificate of the exporting country and the sanitary phytosanitary import clearance issued by the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) to prove that raw materials used in meat processing are sourced from ASF-free countries.

ASF fund

Sen. Juan Edgardo M. Angara assured available funding Wednesday to contain the deadly ASF. Angara affirmed at least P1 billion has been set aside as Quick Response Fund in the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) annual budget.

The senator suggested that the DA “should now break the glass of this emergency fund” to immediately implement the department’s containment protocol against a disease acknowledged to be threatening a key food source that, Angara adds, also “contribute P280 billion to the economy annually.”

According to Angara, the ASF, if left unchecked on time is sure to trigger a calamity. “This ASF is by all accounts a calamity. It may not have the dramatic footage that typhoons create, but in terms of damage to livelihood, and the households affected, it is just as damaging.”

For available funding to sustain anti-ASF measures, Sen. Franklin M. Drilon said the DA can tap the P20-billion National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund, also called the Calamity Fund, in the General Appropriations Act for 2020.

Under this fund, he said “the DA was assigned P1 billion in QRF, which by their nature, should have been forward-deployed to these agencies.”

The senator recalled that just last September 10, the Department of Budget and Management released P82.5 million to the DA to carry out measures to “arrest and abate” the spread of ASF.

At the same time, Angara noted that 35 percent of that amount (P32 million) will be spent to boost security screening measures at the international airports, and P28 million to laboratory testing of meat and meat products.

Angara acknowledged that it is “good that [government is] strengthening [the country’s] quarantine curtains, but what we lack are funds to fight ASF on the ground especially now that local governments have been fully mobilized.”

“But if the ASF epidemic will worsen, and will down many farms, and some financial aid for those stricken is needed, then this can be included in the 2020 budget,” Angara added.

The senator also another “point of interest” the ASF outbreak has generated and that both Congress and the executive branch should look into: “how to strengthen our food biosecurity and food safety measures.”

The senate, he said, “is open to suggestions from our friends in the DA.”

Task force

Chaired by the President and with the DA as vice chairman and lead agency, the NATF is initially composed of Secretaries Carlos G. Dominguez III (Finance), Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. (Foreign Affairs), Año, Francisco Duque (Health), Roy Cimatu (Environment), Lopez, Delfin Lorenzana (Defense), Wendel Avisado (Budget), Arthur Tugade (Transportation), and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad.

After receiving on September 9 the confirmatory test results from the OIE reference laboratory in Pirbright, England, the DA Crisis Management Team (CMT) on Swine oriented all the DA regional directors in Luzon (Regions 1, 2, 3, 4A, 4B, 5, and Cordillera Administrative Region) on the ASF and provided them guidelines on how to manage, contain and control the disease. They were tasked to communicate the same to their respective provincial city and municipal LGUs through their veterinary officers.

Dar also instructed other DA regional directors in Visayas and Mindanao to submit their respective disaster management plan to prevent the possible spread of ASF in their areas.

The DA plans to meet with concerned governors and their respective veterinary officers to align the LGU’s local issuances and corresponding actions vis-à-vis national guidelines by the expanded CMT for a concerted effort with the NATF.

During that meeting, the DA will present a geographic zoning plan to adjust government response to the developing situation on the ground and effectively prevent further spread of ASF in other parts of the country.

The DA also requested the NDRRMC to immediately operationalize and open a line of coordination between the DA and its relevant agencies with the LGU’s respective DRRMCs for quick response on the ground.

Image credits: Bernard Testa


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