Government urged to improve testing of China fish imports

Catherine Talavera - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — An agricultural advocacy group is urging the government to accelerate the establishment of food inspection facilities for imports in the country’s major ports amid reports of excessive antibiotic use in Chinese fish farms.

In a virtual briefing yesterday,Tugon Kabuhayan convenor Asis Perez emphasized the need to hasten the establishment of food inspection facilities in the country’s major ports to ensure the quality and safety of imported produce consumed by millions of Filipinos.

Perez cited a report from the South China Morning Post which featured a research done by Peking University professor Wen Donghui which showed a build up of antibiotics in fish and other marine life were found in data collected from many locations along China’s 32,000 kilo coast line.

He said this could pose threats to food safety in the country given the large amount of fish imports from China.

Tugon Kabuhayan cited data showing the Philippines imported almost P9-billion worth of fish, mollusks and aquatic invertebrates from China in 2019. These include species like pompano, baby shrimps and tilapia.

“Overuse of antibiotics can lead to the development of drug-resistant superbugs in the long run. This is a food safety concern that needs to be addressed since we import from countries like China,” the group said.

“We must emphasize that we shouldn’t discriminate in terms of inspection and testing. All imported fish and other food items, for that matter, should be tested for antibiotics and diseases, regardless of their country of origin,” it said.

The Chinese report also said the prohibited antibiotics like fulfathiaole, chloramphenicol and erythromycin were detected in the waters which may also indicate that the farmers in China may have used antibiotics in violation of regulations.

It said while these antibiotics might not cause immediate harm, the combined effect of different types of antibiotics remains poorly understood and requires further investigation.

“We cannot risk our people consuming possibly contaminated imported fish and other food products,” Tugon Kabuhayan said.

The group urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to fasttrack the country’s first Agriculture Commodity Examination Area (ACEA).

“We commend the DA for allocating budget for the border inspection facilities, but we hope other agencies like the Philippine Ports Authority would approve it with dispatch,” Tugon Kabuhayan said.

“The industry is always ready to support government’s initiatives, especially when it comes to food safety, in any way it can. In the absence of first border inspection, perhaps the government can consider accrediting third-party testing centers to do the job,” it said.

The ACEA, with its controlled temperature environment, will capacitate the quarantine officers to thoroughly inspect the contents of an identified high-risk containerized agricultural shipment.

Each ACEA will feature a laboratory to enable the immediate testing of samples from commodities suspected to carry animal, fish or plant pests or diseases and other hazardous contents.

In July last year, the DA, through the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), said ACEAs would also be put up at Manila South Harbor, Subic Freeport Zone, Port of Batangas, Cebu International Port and Port of Davao.

Apart from the ACEA, a crematorium will also be placed in first border inspection facilities to ensure safe disposal of confirmed agricultural commodities with quarantine violations if these cannot be returned to origin.

The DA said P2 billion had been allocated for the establishment of five ACEAs.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar previously said this would strengthen the existing first border inspection (FBI) procedures in the country as he emphasized the need to prevent the entry of trans-boundary animal diseases such as foot and mouth disease, Avian influenza, and ASF.

vuukle comment



  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with