A HUGE volume of frozen imported meat products that are supposed to go to local meat processors has ended up in public markets and other retailers, posing serious health risks to the public, the Senate committee on agriculture and food discovered.
Sen. Cynthia Villar, committee chairperson, on Friday said she learned that only 20 percent of imported frozen meat entering the country go to processors while the remaining 80 percent are believed sold as regular meat in public markets and even in some private supermarkets.
Based on data of the Bureau of Customs (BOC), a total of 121.6 million kilos of imported meat was released from January to June this year.
Of this volume, only 116 million kilos underwent proper quarantine inspection by the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), leaving more than 5 million kilos of pork unaccounted for.
Villar said despite an existing law that prohibits the sale of frozen imported meat in public markets, many retailers manage to continue to sell it because of failure of local government units (LGUs) to implement the law.
Minda Manantan, executive director of the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), said they have been vigilant in implementing the law but they have very little support from the LGUs.
Villar said frozen meat is intended for processing and should not be sold in public markets because of lack of facilities to keep it frozen.
Frozen meat requires particular temperature, humidity and ventilation conditions in order to keep microbes such as clostridium botulinum, E. coli, listeria and salmonella from contaminating it.
“We should make sure that imported frozen meat only goes to processors, not to retailers because we don’t want this to end up in our markets and supermarkets because they are not safe for human consumption” Villar said.
She asked the Department of Agriculture (DA) to look into supposed proliferation of imported frozen meat in the market and make sure that those caught selling it are punished.
Villar said because imported meat being sold in the public markets is cheaper compared to fresh meat, consumers are attracted to buy it, not knowing the health risk it poses on those who consume it.