With DA Confirming ASF Virus In The Philippines, Is It Still Safe To Eat Pork?

Department of Agriculture Secretary William Dar confirmed on Monday, August 9, 2019, that African Swine-Fever hits the country. However, the department assured the virus is not transmittable from pigs to humans, and pork with NMIS seal is safe for human consumption.

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ASF case confirmed

The Department of Agriculture identified the cause of swine deaths in Rizal and Guiguinto, Bulacan as African swine fever, a contagious and fatal viral disease affecting both domestic and wild pigs of all ages.

The Department of Agriculture sought help to confirm the reason for the increase in the mortality rate of pigs in the country.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar says, “We received late last week the result of what we call the polymerase chain reaction test. We submitted 20 [blood] samples to the United Kingdom laboratory, and the result that we received is that out of the 20 samples, 14 are positive.”

The DA secretary was referring to the UK-based Pirbright Institute, which is designated as the World Reference Laboratory for Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) and by the World Organization for Animal Health. 

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African swine fever, not a threat to human health

The African Swine Fever virus does not pose a health risk to humans according to the World Organization for Animal Health.

The disease is not transmittable from pigs to humans nor is it a food safety concern.

Dar wants consumers everywhere to know that African swine fever impacts pigs and not humans.

Pork with NMIS seal is safe for human consumption

Secretary Dar wants to assure the public that “for local pork, we are telling everyone that it is safe. Let us patronize our products.”

“Before slaughtering, a hog is validated and assessed by a veterinarian, who then issues a medical certificate. Once slaughtered, the meats are stamped with a seal from the National Meat Inspection Service, assuring that it has passed the food safety measures imposed by the government,” he explained.

“We have never been in an epidemic, just to highlight that,” he said. “We are responding to the increased number of deaths of pigs.”

“If it has the NMIS seal, it means the pig was not sick when it was slaughtered, so the meat is safe,” the agriculture chief said.

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To prove that local pork being sold in the market is safe to eat and not a threat to human health, DA Secretary William Dar with DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III took part in a ‘boodle fight’.

Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo also said that the Department of Agriculture had conducted all measures to secure public safety. 

“I think there is no need to worry, considering that the DA secretary has not cautioned us to avoid or not to eat pork. I am sure the DA secretary is competent enough to handle the problem,” he added.

Enough supply

Rosendo So, president of the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura, said the country had an ample pork supply.

“We don’t need to import… Our only worry is if the virus will spread, which will decrease the population of hogs,” said So.

Secretary Dar said the agency is on top of the situation with the hog industry asserting that supply is enough in the country.

He also appeals to the sellers not to take advantage of the situation.

“There’s enough pork supply this season, more so in December, so it’s not expected to raise prices in the market,” Dar said to “Bandila”.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the ASF might lessen demand for pork, but its impact on inflation would be minimal.

 “The demand for pork may be affected, so that would prevent the spike in prices,” Lopez said.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said inflation might still descend by 3.2% despite the ASF issue.

“Chicken is okay. People can substitute chicken for pork. Inflation is not going to spike for sure,” Pernia added.

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Piglets and cash assistance to affected hog raisers

The Department of Agriculture received ₱82-million funds from the Department of Budget and Management to prevent the spread of the disease, including ₱3,000 cash assistance to hog raisers for every culled pig. 

“On top of that, piglets will be given to them so they can start raising again,” he said.

Precautionary measures in provinces

Some 7,416 pigs within the 1-kilometer radius of the affected areas in parts of Rizal and Bulacan were slaughtered. Dar said these areas are now “cleared” of the disease.

As a result, quarantine and monitoring protocols were placed to protect the P260-billion hog industry in the Philippines.

He said some areas in Luzon were monitored, but he did not disclose where these areas are to “allow the government to do its work first.”

Secretary Dar said the task force installed footbaths in all airports and seaports, where all passengers are required to walk on, to wash away the traces of swine disease.

Director Salvador Diputado of the DA’s Central Visayas office said that local governments are observing security protocols, to ensure that Central Visayas will be disease-free.

Esteban Co Jr. of the South Cotabato Swine Producers Association had asked the government to prohibit backyard growers from feeding swill to their pigs.

Rizal Gov. Rebecca Ynares issued an order to local officials to monitor the transport of pork products entry of the province.

Checkpoints were set up in Legaspi City as a measure of the entry of livestock and meat products.

The Department of Agriculture Northern Mindanao office said on Monday that the multi-sector task force was deployed to deal with the possible spread of viral disease.

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Other countries affected with ASF

Dar assumed that overseas Filipinos who came from ASF-affected countries brought the viral disease.

Amid suspicion of African Swine Fever cases in the country, Taiwan issued a travel advisory establishing a tighter inspection of carry-on bags of those traveling from the Philippines.

The Philippines has banned the entry of pork and pork-based products from African Swine Fever affected countries like: 

• Japan 

• China 

• Hungary 

• Belgium 

• Latvia 

• Poland 

• Romania 

• Russia 

• Ukraine 

• Bulgaria 

• The Czech Republic 

• Moldova 

• South Africa

• Zambia

Source Link: CNN Philippines