The Food and Drug Administration has expanded its list of countries temporarily banned from exporting pork products to the Philippines.
According to a report on Balitanghali on Monday, these countries have reported cases of African swine fever among their livestock.
The new FDA advisory now bans the importation of pork from Vietnam, Zambia, South Africa, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Mongolia, Moldova, and Belgium, expanding a Department of Agriculture (DA) memorandum order last September that had banned the importation of pork from ASF-hit countries China, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine.
According to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), African swine fever is "a severe viral disease affecting domestic and wild pigs." While humans cannot get ASF, it can have serious economic effects if it spreads among livestock.
The Philippines is currently free of African swine flu.
DA wants products pulled
The DA and local hog raisers have also asked the FDA to stop the issuance of import clearances and order the immediate pull-out from the market of processed pork products from these countries, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said Tuesday.
In his Facebook post, Piñol said that in connection with the case of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who had brought home cans of Ma Ling from an ASF-hit country, while a ban and cut-off date for the entry of processed pork products from China was issued last year, the FDA continued issuing permits to allow importers to bring in the banned products.
The Agriculture chief said that the DA's memorandum last year asked the FDA to implement a ban and stop the entry of processed pork products, including canned goods, from China and 13 other countries after August 2018.
In an emergency meeting on Monday, attended by officials of the Bureau of Customs at the DA Secretary's office, Piñol said the hog raisers asked President Rodrigo Duterte to immediately order the creation of an Inter-Agency Task Force to handle the ASF threat to the country's P200-billion hog industry.
"ASF is a deadly disease of hogs which has no vaccination and no known cure. Although it is not contagious to humans, the disease could wipe out the hog population of a country," the Agriculture chief said.
China and Vietnam, two of the countries worst hit by ASF, have already eliminated millions of hogs infected by the disease, with China losing about 30% of its swine population, he said.
During the meeting, Piñol said the DA, BOC and hog raisers also agreed to:
- request an emergency meeting with the new Director General of the FDA, Dr. Eric Domingo, to address the seeming lack of coordination and synchronization of government efforts to address the ASF problem;
- ask the FDA to request the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to implement an immediate recall from the market of all processed and canned pork since these are among the items included in the ban issued by the DA in August of 2018;
- direct the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) to monitor and inspect animal feed stores in the country to check for the presence of dog and cat food using hog-based meat and bone meal processed from ASF-affected countries;
- engage private sector support in the deployment of additional "Deputized Quarantine Officers" to man the airports and ports to ensure that pork and pork products do not enter the country;
- allow the immediate deployment of the trained K9 sniffers in the major ports and airports of entry; and
- appeal to importers and traders to voluntarily refrain from importing pork and processed pork from ASF-affected and high-risk countries.
"DA Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan and the hog industry stakeholders will meet with the new FDA Director General Dr. Domingo today to thresh out issues involving the continued entry of processed pork products, commodities which are under the jurisdiction of the FDA," Piñol said.
"At 2 p.m. today, the DA Secretary will meet with the country's major meat importers to ask them to start a self-imposed moratorium on the importation of pork and processed pork from ASF High Risk Countries," he added.
GMA News Online has contacted Federated Distributors Inc., importer and distributor of Ma Ling, but the company said it cannot give a statement to media as of posting time. —Ted Cordero/BM/KG, GMA News