“Just to be clear, we have never been in an African Swine Flu epidemic,” said Philippine Agriculture Minister, William Dar.
Pork is a critical market in the Philippines. It is an understatement to say that Filipinos like pork, we undeniably love it! This isn’t just a personal opinion but is supported by data as the pork and meat industry in the country accounts for more than 60% of consumption in the market.
CONCERN FOR THE HOG INDUSTRY
Rico’s Lechon is one of the many distributors of pork and meat. However, with the first cases of African swine fever reported last September 2019. Panic among the populace resulted in a decline in one of the greatest and much-needed income for the Philippine economy.
The Philippines has more than 12 million hogs in its inventory. However, if the viral disease is not properly dealt with, it can cause a major economic loss to the market’s P260-billion swine industry. Hence the Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Agriculture’s (DA) swift management in handling reported and unreported cases.
THE FIRST AFRICAN SWINE FLU CASE
Last October 9, 2019, two towns on the outskirts of Manila were tested to be positive with ASF. As currently there is no cure for the disease, the government decided to cull more than 7,000 pigs within a one-kilometer (0.6-mile) radius from the site to avoid the spread of the virus to other pig pens.
The DA has continued to monitor the surrounding areas and on October 11, they have dealt with the reported 12,000 pigs from 20 barangays in Rizal, Bulacan, Pampanga and Quezon City that were tested positive with the virus.
Pampanga Governor Pineda stated that measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including the 1-7-10 protocol and the 24-7 animal quarantine checkpoints, have been implemented in the said affected areas to prevent further spread of the virus to other parts of the province.
The 1-7-10 protocol consists of quarantine checkpoints that are set up in areas within a 1-kilometer radius of suspected farms with continued monitoring on the movement of live pigs, pork, and pork products.
While a 7-kilometer radius is set by authorities that are conducting surveillance and limiting animal movement. Farm owners within the 10-kilometer radius are mandated to report any disease to the DA.
WHAT IS THE AFRICAN SWINE FLU
Fear always comes from the unknown. Before you panic, let’s discuss the ASF itself. The virus is a contagious viral disease but it’s only a problem for the pigs. It does not do any harm to the human body.
To downplay the fears on the virus, provincial officials and stakeholders have roasted over 50 pigs at the Bren Z. Guiao Convention Center in the City of San Fernando during their Pork and Lechon Festival in Pampanga.
Although, the ASF does give the pigs a hemorrhagic (excessive bleeding) fever that almost always ends in death. This only happens by feeding livestock with contaminated pork products.
Did you know that pigs are unable to clean up after themselves? That is simply their nature.
Pig pens tend to be messy, filled with feces and urine. They eat where they release and they can’t groom nor take baths even when natural water sources are available. In the end, what keeps the pen and the pigs clean are those who look after them.
If you still aren’t convinced, the University of Illinois, Professor of Pathobiology Dan Rock states “Most viruses including the ASF, are limited or restricted to some degree of host and cannot replicate in another cell type in humans. This is a general rule.”
In conclusion, there is no reason to fear and avoid the pork market. The DOH would rather like to have the populace focus on cooking their meat properly as raw or undercooked meat can do more harm than the ASF. For whole meat, the temperature must be around 145°F (65°C) and 160–165°F (70–75°C) for ground meats.
RICO’S LECHON: It’s clean and safe
From December 2-5, 2019, Region VII hosted the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) 4th National Livestock Program (NLP) Quarter Review and Planning Workshop. The workshop serves as an inspection and as an assessment of how the government can better help improve not only the livestock industry but other markets as well.
Rico’s Lechon was chosen for the assessment as the brand has been opening countless stores one after another in almost every month of 2019. The rapid growth, development, and recent International Business Stevie Awards made it one of the most valuable sources to learn from.
It is also important to note that while ASF is hitting parts of Manila, Rico’s Lechon receives pork and meat from a backyard supplier in Negros.
“We didn’t find any problems with Rico’s Lechon. Their cooking areas are clean and high-tech, the pig is so juicy and fresh without any foul odor, it’s really great,” said Carlota Maniaga DA Director of Region X.
“Our objective is to assess and learn from the various private sectors and implement strategies in order to better improve the livestock industry. Rico’s Lechon offers us a window on better understanding the next course of action for the government,” said Zeam Amber, Regional Livestock Program Coordinator.
Region 7 ranks third for the pork production and consumption in the Philippines. Hence, the government has spared no effort to ensure the safety of its consumers.
The government believes that collaboration is needed to keep the market free from viruses and other health problems.
The Bureau of Customs, DA, and DOH won’t be lenient in pressing charges against illegal traders or smugglers bringing in contaminated shipments of feeds, meat and other merchandise.
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