In case you didn’t know, there has been a temporary ban on the importation, distribution, and sale of processed pork meat products from countries affected by African Swine Fever (ASF) since August 2018. That includes Ma Ling, a brand of luncheon meat popular in the Philippines.
Processed pork meat products from seven countries had been banned since last year, but in May 2019, the Department of Agriculture asked the Food and Drug Administration to recall processed pork products from 16 countries affected by ASF. These countries include: Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Moldova, South Africa, Zambia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Belgium, Latvia, Poland, Romania, China (including Hong Kong and Macau), Mongolia, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
On May 27, 2018, the FDA ordered the pull out of said products. Eric Domingo, FDA officer-in-charge told CNN Philippinesthe items will be “recalled and seized” from local markets to prevent contamination.
The FDA urged distributors and other dealers of processed meat products to follow the order and warned consumers to be careful and review their future purchases. “We also ask the public to report any sightings [of these banned products] to the FDA,” Domingo told Inquirer.net.
African Swine Fever is a highly contagious, severe viral disease affecting domestic and wild pigs, according to the World Organization for Animal Health. It causes high fever, loss of appetite, hemorrhages in the skin, vomiting, diarrhea, and death in animals within six to 13 days upon contracting the virus.
ASF is not considered a risk to human health. However, the FDA said the disease can cause major economic loss in the pig industry and will affect supply and pricing in the Philippines.
The virus can thrive even in processed goods, said Agriculture Manny Piñol to CNN Philippines, which is why a recall and ban was ordered.
“While we consider Ma Ling and other processed pork products as minimal risk products, we still would like to pursue the banning of these products because we cannot take chances because according to experts, the ASF virus can survive the processing and even heat used in processing,” Piñol said.
Those who violate the ban can be fined Php200,000 under the Food Security Act. This includes bringing in prohibited pork and processed pork products into the country.
On his radio show, radio broadcaster Raffy Tulfo argued with quarantine officers for confiscating cans of Ma Ling from an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) coming from Hong Kong. In a Facebook post, Piñol said that Tulfo “used his influence as a media man to have the confiscated items released by the Bureau of Customs and returned these to the OFW who went to his radio program to complain.”
The secretary said what Tulfo did was a “serious violation of our quarantine laws,” and he would order an investigation regarding the incident. He also urged the OFW (who resides in Ilocos) not to open the Ma Ling, as the virus may unknowingly spread if leftovers are fed to pigs in the province.
“Maski ako na Secretary of Agriculture ay hindi nanghihimasok sa mga quarantine officers sa kanilang pagganap ng kanilang tungkulin at hindi tama na murahin sila ninuman dahil ginagawa lamang nila ang kanilang trabaho,” Piñol wrote.