The Department of Agriculture (DA) will soon implement zoning of hog farms as an additional move to contain the spread of African swine fever (ASF) in the country.
Reildrin Morales, National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) executive director, said in a briefing yesterday under the zoning plan, the whole of Visayas and Mindanao plus the island provinces of MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) and Masbate will be declared free zones.
Morales said Luzon where the cases of ASF were reported will be considered as a containment zone. However, the island will have protected zones like the regions of Cordillera, Ilocos, Cagayan Valley and Bicol while Central Luzon and Calabarzon will be considered as high risk zones.
“The towns with cases of ASF will be identified as infected zones. Basically, the free zones will be considered clean zones so they can send pigs, meat and products anywhere in the country but the infected zones will have limited market access and can trade only trade with fellow infected zones and the National Capital Region,” Morales added.
The DA confirmed that after several validation tests, Mekeni Food Corp.’s skinless longganisa and Picnic hotdogs were found to be positive with traces of ASF.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Mekeni may be slapped with administrative and a possible revocation of license to operate if found to have deliberately used sick pigs in their processing.
FDA chief Eric Domingo said the agency is working with Mekeni for the recall and seizure of its pork products
“The DA and the Department of Health are organizing a composite team to do further investigations related to the (Mekeni incident). The source of the meat, we don’t know yet as that is part of the other investigations that we are conducting,” said Ronnie Domingo, Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) director.
BAI has so far inspected 63 processed meat manufacturing establishments out of 178 with the license to operate in the country and found all of them to be compliant with regulatory standards including NMIS certificates and processes to manufacture food.
“We went to factories and checked the cleanliness and their processes and then looked at their documentations including NMIS certificates in using raw materials. So far, 63 passed and we hope to complete the inspection of all 178 by this week but the remaining ones are only small players,” the FDA’s Domingo said.
DA Secretary William Dar said these developments only confirm initial findings of the cause of ASF in the country.
“We are correct in our hypothesis that it came from food wastes from hotels and restaurants and even airlines. The food wastes were dumped in Rodriguez, Rizal and somebody collected them as swill feeds… The smuggling of items is also one. That concludes that this has been introduced by bringing it here, smuggling it and introducing it here,” Dar said.
The DA also assured the situation is under control especially that the country’s archipelagic nature provides additional barriers to stop the spread of the disease.
It added out of the 12.7 million hog population in the country, only .5 percent has been hulled.
In a separate statement, Mekeni said it has fully complied with all regulations and certifications set by government and emphasized that only specific batches of its Picnic Hotdog Regular 500g and Skinless Longaniza (Uncooked) 200g were found to have DNA traces of ASF.
“While only specific batches were found to have DNA traces of ASF, all of our pork-based products have already been pulled out from our selling areas when we initiated a voluntary recall last October 26, 2019. These products are currently quarantined and a batch sampling has been submitted to an independent laboratory for ASF testing. We are still waiting for the results of these tests,” Mekeni added.
Mekeni’s operations remain suspended.