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Mekeni Food’s longganisa, hotdog tested positive for ASF —Agri Dept.

The Department of Agriculture on Monday confirmed that a couple of products of Pampanga-based meat processor Mekeni Food Corp. tested positive for the African swine fever (ASF) virus.

The samples of skinless longganisa and Picnic hotdog sent by the food company for testing last month are positive of the ASF, Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) officer-in-charge Ronnie Domingo said in a press conference in Quazon City.

“Set of samples of longganisa and Picnic Hotdog tested positive for African Swine Fever based on tests conducted,” Domingo said.

The test were conducted on October 25, a day before Mekeni voluntarily recalled all its pork-based products, according to the bureau, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture.

Results of the October 25 tests confirmed the series of testing from samples of the products seized at the Port of Calapan and other from Mekeni Food’s processing plant, Domingo noted.

“The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Health (DOH) is organizing a composite team to do further investigations related to this issue,” he said.

“The source of meat we don’t know yet. That will be part of the investigation we will conduct,” Domingo added.

Firm to trace source  of the virus

Mekeni Food Corporation vowed to trace the source of the virus that was recently found in samples of its skinless longganisa and hotdog.

“Despite this unfortunate development, we assure government that we will continue to cooperate in its ongoing investigation to determine the source of ASF,” it said in a separate statement.

The company emphasized that it has always fully complied with regulations and certifications set by authorities in the past 32 years of its operations.

According to Mekeni, all the pork-based products it pulled out from the market on October 26 were already quarantined.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has visited Mekeni Food’s factory to check if the facilities are up to government standards.

“When we went to the factory, parang kumpleto naman sila ng documents pero obviously, there’s something wrong,” Health Undersecretary and FDA officer-in-charge Eric Domingo said.

“Kung saan kinuha ni Mekeni ‘yung raw materials, ‘yun ‘yung susunod na parte ng investigation,” he added.

The company, meanwhile, said operations of Mekeni Food Corp.’s pork-based processing area remain suspended for cleaning and disinfection.

“Operations of our pork-based processing area had been suspended since 26 October 2019, and the facility has been cleansed and disinfected,” it said in an emailed statement.

“A third-party company had also been engaged to do swabbing and testing of the facility before we resume operations,” it added.

The FDA will be working hand in hand with the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) to inspect all 178 meat processors in the Philippines.

“What they do is our regulatory officers go to the factory, they look at the cleanliness at tsaka ‘yung process nila, and then they also look at ‘yung certification,” he said.

As of October 31, the FDA has already inspected 63 processors including Mekeni.

“‘Yung 63 na pinakamalaki in the country, sila ‘yung una naming pinuntahan and we found them compliant with FDA standards. We will continue to monitor them in tandem with NMIS, so we’re going to partner with NMIS,” he said.

Meat processors found liable and guilty of trading and selling sick or dead pigs face imprisonment of six to 12 years, and fines of up to P1 million. —VDS/RSJ/BM, GMA News