Monitoring task force set up vs new swine flu
The DA cautioned the public against buying meat online amid the discovery of the new strain of swine flu.
Monitoring task force set up vs new swine flu
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - July 8, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The government’s task force on the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has approved the recommendation of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to adopt protocols and surveillance mechanisms to prevent the spread of a new strain of swine flu with pandemic potential.

The approval of the strategy to deter the transmission of G4-H1N1 is contained in Resolution No. 52 issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on Monday.

The approach requires the setting up of inter-agency surveillance mechanisms for swine farms and workers, especially those who are regularly exposed to pigs.

The efforts will be linked to global efforts to monitor the disease, the resolution said. Further research on the virus will also be conducted.

The health and agriculture departments together with the customs bureau were ordered to strictly implement the Food Safety Act of 2013. Special focus will be given on Section 12, Item B of the law, which states that imported food should undergo inspection and clearance procedures at the first port of entry to determine compliance with national regulations.

The DA cautioned the public against buying meat online amid the discovery of the new strain of swine flu.

In a public advisory, the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) encouraged consumers to buy meat from local stores where they can actually see what they are buying.

“Without physical access to the items being sold, consumers buying meat online have no way of knowing its quality and rely mainly on textual description and images provided by the seller,” the NMIS said.

“In buying highly perishable food such as meat, any inaccurate, false or exaggerated presentation of facts may cause potential safety hazards,” it added.

The NMIS advisory was issued a week after researchers in China discovered a new type of swine flu that is reportedly capable of triggering a pandemic.

The virus named G4 descended from the H1N1 strain that caused a pandemic in 2009 after it became transmissible to humans.

Since the public is encouraged to stay at home amid the coronavirus pandemic and buying commodities online cannot be disregarded, the NMIS advised consumers to be more careful in buying meat products.

The NMIS said consumers should make sure they are buying from licensed meat suppliers.

“Meat must be kept in a cooler or insulated container to keep its freshness and avoid spoilage. Chilled meat is cold to the touch, while frozen meat must be rock solid. In case of imported meat, its frozen state must be maintained at all times until such time that it will be cooked,” the NMIS said.

Buyers should also seek information on the length of delivery time from the store up to their homes. Length of travel must not exceed two hours to maintain the freshness of meat.

Consumers should inspect the physical properties of the meat products: no unusual odor or color like greenish or red spots and firm to the touch when thawed.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar has appealed to traders and importers not to bring in smuggled pork products from China so as not to add to the country’s health problems.

‘Hot’ meat

Shipments of imported meat from Europe possibly contaminated with swine flu may be freely entering the Philippines due to alleged irregularities in the importation process.

In a report to the DA, several players in the hog industry recently revealed that some importers resort to misdeclaration of the origin of imported meat products.

The group, which requested anonymity due to sensitivity of the information reported to the DA, lamented how the unabated importation of meat threatens the P200-billion local hog industry.

They cited the case of an international trading firm which brought in frozen pork shipment that allegedly came from Germany – one of the 19 countries covered by the government’s swine importation ban due to the H1N1 virus from China.

According to the group, the shipment was allowed entry by the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and Bureau of Customs (BOC) despite “clear discrepancy in records and documents.”

The import clearance issued by the BAI showed that the shipment, which arrived at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) on May 10 and consigned to a Binondo-based firm, originated from France and was loaded in Singapore.

The Bill of Lading and Inward Foreign Manifest, however, showed that the frozen meat came from Germany.

“The BAI and BOC should have not allowed the entry of frozen meat shipments. The clearance section of the BOC has failed to red flag such shipments because importers misdeclared the country of origin,” the group alleged. Louise Maureen Simeon, Edu Punay

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