GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/29 August) –Airport and quarantine authorities here intercepted and burned Wednesday night assorted meat products weighing at least 260 kilograms amid the African swine fever (ASF) scare gripping Luzon island, National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) officials confirmed Thursday.
Myrna Habacon, NMIS-Region 12 director, said that airport authorities burned the seized “hot meat” products, which were contained in boxes bearing Chinese characters, in the presence of veterinary quarantine workers.
“The meat products came in from Manila. They were confiscated as part of the efforts to prevent the entry of animal diseases in the region,” she said.
Citing information from airport authorities, Habacon said an unnamed Chinese national who owns a restaurant in the city brought in the meat products.
She assured that meat products sold in the markets in the region are safe, noting all fresh meats are produced locally.
Dr. Rene Molina, NMIS-12 meat control officer, said that airport authorities became suspicious of the boxes because they contained Chinese markings.
“When the boxes were opened, they contained pecking duck meat, siopao and pork bones, among others,” Molina said in a separate interview.
He said the cargo also lacked proper documents.
Habacon said they have intensified the monitoring of pig farms and meat shops after the reported death of hogs in backyard piggeries in Rizal province in Luzon.
The Department of Agriculture had sent specimens to foreign laboratories to determine the cause of the pigs’ death, but the results are not yet out.
The dead pigs showed loss of appetite and suffer vomiting, skin hemorrhage and discoloration in the extremities.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar recently issued a memorandum to provincial, city and municipal veterinary offices and municipal agriculture offices to ban the transport of live animals, meat products and meat by-products if they have no veterinary health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian and shipping permit issued by BAI.
Habacon urged the public to be vigilant and immediately report to concerned authorities any abnormalities they notice in pigs or pork products.
“We need to be alert because the ASF can swiftly spread among pigs. The virus is potent to pigs,” she said.
She asked returning Filipino overseas workers to meantime refrain from bringing any pork meat or related processed products in the face of scare brought by the African swine fever.
Esteban Co. Jr., an officer of the South Cotabato Swine Producers Association (Socospa), earlier told MindaNews in a phone interview that they have not monitored any cases of possible African swine fever among their members.
“We are always on the lookout for any possible disease,” Co said. “I assure the public that the meat we produced and sold in the markets are very safe for consumption.”
Socospa comprises about two dozens piggery owners in this city and neighboring localities.
The group’s members have been shipping live pigs to markets in Metro Manila and the Visayas, Co said.
African swine fever does not cause disease in humans, according to the World Organization for Animal Health. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)