FDA ready to destroy over 16,000 canned products from African Swine Fever-affected countries

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Photo: Food and Drug Administration

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 15) — Thousands of cans of meat products from African Swine Fever (ASF)-affected nations have been confiscated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in a bid to stop the virus from causing harm to the the local livestock industry.

The FDA said it has seized 16,488 cans, which are now stored in a warehouse and being prepared for destruction.

Speaking to CNN Philippines Newsroom Weekend Saturday, Dr. Joy Lagayan of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) said the government agency now routinely takes samples from all items seized at sea and airports to test for ASF.

She said the confiscation is not limited to canned goods only. "We have meat, meat products — kasama na po diyan yung (including) sausages, dimsum, hotdogs — so ang pork and pork products po ang kino-confiscate natin. Total of 364 samples, meron pong 34 na nag-positive doon," she said.

Lagayan added that the samples came from items collected between January and May this year.

Lagayan said while the country remains free of ASF, tight security and screening measures must be in place to keep it that way.

"Puwede pong masira yung 250 billion (peso) swine industry just by this specific virus dahil wala siyang gamot at wala rin pong bakuna." she said.

[Translation: This virus could destroy the P250 billion swine industry because there is no cure and no vaccine for it.]

To prevent ASF contamination, Lagayan said BAI was enforcing a system called the "BABES" strategy, which involves banning imported products from ASF-infected countries, avoidance of swill feeding, blocking the entry oif products at sea and airports, educating people, and sample submission.

On Friday, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said pork luncheon meat in cans were intercepted at the Clark International Airport on March 25. The canned goods later tested positive for ASF, he said.

"Kung nalalusot po ito at naipakain sa mga alagang baboy ang tira-tira maaring kumalat ang sakit sa ating mga babuyan at magiging sanhi ng pagkasira ng ating hog industry," said Piñol.

[Translation: If these were able to slip through and the scraps fed to pigs, the disease could spread to piggeries and could cause the destruction of our hog industry.]

The ASF virus can thrive even in processed goods, Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo had earlier warned. "A virus can stay dormant. Kahit processed, minsan naiiwan ang virus [Even when the meat is processed, the virus could remain a threat]," the official said.

Pork and pork products from China, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine, Zambia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, China, Vietnam and Mongolia have been barred from coming into the country to stop the entry of ASF.

The FDA has also ordered the pullout from stores of processed pork from countries with the ASF.

ASF poses no direct and immediate danger to human health, but its spread may threaten the hog industry, with major potential impact on supplies and prices.

The disease, against which there is yet no vaccine or cure, was first detected in Asia in 2018 in an area in Siberia, according to the United Nations.

In December 2018, Philippine agriculture authorities ruled that pork products from affected countries would be confiscated at the points of entry.