DA probes ‘smuggling’ of 5.6M kilos of meat

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The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Thursday began investigating alleged smuggling into the country of over 5.6 million kilos of frozen meat products.

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Jose Reaño, DA undersecretary for livestock, said they are reviewing pertinent documents on Manila’s meat imports to check discrepancy between data of the Bureau of Animal Industry(BAI) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

Reaño added that he has instructed BAI Director Rubina Cresensio to collate the documents, including import permits and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) and veterinary quarantine certificates, from January to July this year and compare them with the data from BOC.

“The review will also include all returned and disposed products,” he said, adding that the BAI committed to complete the investigation within the week.

Reaño did not discount the possibility of certain cargos skipping quarantine inspections upon arrival in ports, resulting in non-recording of shipments.

“We have to study the records first, whether these missing shipments have permits and who owned them. We will also have to see if they were given quarantine clearance or if the shipments entered the country,” he said.

As part of efforts to ensuring food safety, the Agriculture department through the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) will conduct spot inspections of warehouses or cold storage facilities of importing companies to validate their stocks.

NMIS and local government units will also step up their campaign against illegal meat, this time by checking expiry dates of meat products, among other measures.

Those behind selling such meat will have their products confiscated and will be asked to explain. Failure to justify the sale would mean appropriate cases to be filed by NMIS.

Reaño said it is the duty of DA to ensure that meat and meat products sold in the country are not only fit for human consumption but also contain the right expiry date limits even in frozen state.

On Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala ordered investigation of possible entry of expired imported meat into the country in light of a warning from Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) that some 5.6 million kilos of expired, imported and possibly smuggled pork have found their way into the Philippine market.

“We welcome the call from Sinag, and we agree that food safety and public health are of paramount importance,” Alcala said.

Sinag said data from BAI showed 116 million kilos of imported pork underwent quarantine inspection for the first six months of the year. Data from BOC, however, revealed that 121.6 million kilos of imported pork were released in the first half of 2014.

Sinag is an umbrella group of agribusiness operators, farmers and party-list groups formed last year.

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