Press Releases

Restrictions On Imported Meat Hitnews2
March 1, 2012
Manila Bulletin
By Marvyn N. Benaning

Meat importers and processors have taken Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala to task for being lenient on warm meat but overly strict on imported meat from the US and Canada.

The Alliance of Food Processors, Providers and Stakeholders (AFPPS) appealed to Alcala in a letter dated February 13 to examine closely the scientific basis for Administrative Order No. 22, which requires sellers of imported pork, beef and chicken to keep their products frozen or chilled and covered with plastic to ensure they are free from contamination.
In expressing their dismay over Alcala’s inaction, AFPPS members stressed that the agriculture chief did not respond to their letter of February 3, which contained the report made by SGS Philippines on its comparative study on warm meat and imported meat products.
AFPPS is comprised of the Philippine Association of Meat Processors, Inc. (PAMPI), the Meat Im-porters and Traders Association, Inc. (MITA) and the Cold Chain Association of the Philippines, Inv. (CCAP).
It expressed disgust over what it said were raids conducted by the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) under Jane Bacayo in coordination with the police and the local government units (LGUs) and the seizure of imported chicken and pork products.
These raids, AFPPS said, “are dangerously affecting the livelihood of our victimized retail market vendors.”
In the joint letter signed by PAMPI President Felix O. Tiukinhoy Jr., MITA President Jesus C. Cham and CCAPI President Anthony S. Dizon, AFPPS said the imported chicken and pork subjected to SGS analysis last January “passed the microbiological standards prescribed by the NMIS under NMIS Memorandum Circular -9-2008-5.”
The three said the analyzed samples came from the Commonwealth Market in Quezon City and from the Marikina City Market.
“Of the total 21 samples of various pork and chicken cuts drawn for lab testing, 9 samples of local pork cuts out of 11 proved to be contaminated with excessive colony forming units (CFU) although Salmonella was in all of the samples. Some contaminated samples had exceeded the standard reference limes by 3 times and 5 times the standard but were not confiscated,” they told Alcala.
“In comparison, the 16 samples of imported meats had all passed the total plate count or contamination levels of the NMIS standards but were subjected to raids and confiscation,” they stressed.
“These results only prove our point that the confiscation of imported meats is not science-based. The toleration and overprotection of local meats is placing the health of our consumers in true danger,” the AFPPS leaders warned.
They slammed the NMIS for conducting irregular and illegal raids and confiscations.
By doing so, Tiukinhoy, Cham and Dizon said, “the image of imported meats per se is being unfairly and criminally tarnished.”
“Unless these raids are discontinued,” they warned Alcala, “our alliance will be constrained to expose the truth to our consumers in the interest of food safety and security. We, therefore, reiterate our earlier request to you, Mr. Secretary, to rescind, or, at the very least, suspend the implementation of MC 835 and AO 22.”
AO 22 has been criticized by the US Embassy and the Canadian ambassador for being too strict on im-ported meat while paying little heed to the health risks posed by warm meat.
The US and Canada supply 90 percent of imported pork cuts and Washington has already issued a veiled threat that it would oppose the Philippines’ plea for an extension on the quantitative restrictions (QR) on rice if AO 22 is not junked.
Alcala is standing pat on his decision to implement AO 22, arguing that he would not compromise the people’s health and the livelihood of backyard hog and poultry raisers.