Consumers of processed pork with swine fever virus need not worry, says DOH
The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday allayed public fears over reports that a branded hot dog, “longganisa” (pork sausage) and “tocino” (cured pork) were positive for the African swine fever (ASF) virus.
“There is no threat to human health when products positive for ASF is eaten,” said Health Undersecretary Enrique Domingo, who is also Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officer in charge.
“The public should not be alarmed. They should not be afraid of eating these products because these are completely safe for consumption. Even if these are consumed, they have no effect on human health,” he added in a text message to the Inquirer.
Domingo made the statement a day after newspapers reported that a test by the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) found that samples of the branded hot dog, longganisa and tocino were positive for the swine fever virus.
Processed pork products could be tainted if the meat came from a pig that had ASF virus, said the health official. He said he had not seen a copy of the BAI report.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), meanwhile, is standing by its position calling on certain local governments to lift the ban on the shipment and sale of processed pork products from Luzon.
Areas with ASF
As of Oct. 16, BAI data showed that 62,223 hogs had been culled in the provinces of Bulacan (28,008), Pampanga (21,028), Rizal (8,041), Pangasinan (170) and Nueva Ecija (22), as well as certain cities in Metro Manila.
Local government units (LGUs) and industry groups have renewed their appeal for the DILG not to lift the ban after the BAI confirmed the presence of the swine fever virus in processed pork products that were seized in Mindoro two weeks ago.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año told the Inquirer on Thursday that the memorandum circular restricting the trade of pork products would remain.
He said the DILG had imposed requirements and conditions that companies must comply with first before they could move processed pork products.
But Año said he also supported proposals to prohibit brands of processed meat products found to be infected with the viral hog disease to enter ASF-free areas.
“The guidelines on processed meat products … shall remain,” he said. “We will be stricter on checkpoints and quarantine operations to ensure that all requirements and conditions are met in terms of the movement, transport and sale of processed meat products.”
“On areas where LGUs would continue to impose the ban, they would answer for it if there are complaints from their constituents,” he added.
Año was referring to the government units of Cebu, Bohol and Negros Oriental whose officials said they would defy the circular to protect their livestock.
The Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. earlier said the ban in Cebu and Bohol would mean P45 billion in losses to the P300-billion domestic processed meat industry.
Amid the growing ASF scare among consumers and the continuous spread of the hog disease, Año said a multiagency meeting was expected to be convened “very soon” to be presided by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
Domingo said the DOH wanted to coordinate with the BAI so that “our communication, messaging will be similar, accurate and not cause panic or alarm, especially in cases like this where there really is no threat to human health.”
He said the DOH and the FDA had created guidelines to ensure safety of food products.
“As long as the products have CPRs (certificates of product registration), these are safe for human consumption. As long as the products are registered, we’ve checked the factories and proper hygiene practices are observed in manufacturing the products, there’s nothing to fear, no reason to worry about getting sick if we consume them,” he said.
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