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Philippines bans German pork, proving Europe is not a country when it comes to food safety

Editorial Staff

After the EU's fuss several years ago over horse meat in packs of beef, a fresh food safety and security issue has arisen with the result that the Philippines has banned all imports of pork from Germany.

One of the principles of the EU is that it wants to regard the entire political region as a single country. However, there are many ways in which this is far from the case. It is, therefore, not acceptable to mark food products as "produce of the EU."

In this case, the labelling of pork shipped to the Philippines said it was from Germany but it contained pork from both Germany and Poland.

That is material because Germany is officially free of African Swine Fever while Poland is not.

The ban, started last week, is temporary pending a full investigation by the Department of Agriculture in The Philippines.

In the great scheme of things, the quantity was small - 250KG. It was shipped into the port of Cebu and intercepted on 27 June. It was disposed of by incineration, say the authorities.

There are now 19 countries banned from shipping pork to the Philippines where it is a very major source of animal protein and is found in many national dishes. Local pork producers report significantly increased demand. Prices for pork were already increasing: the Business Mirror reported in early May this year that consumers should "brace for an increase in the price of bacon, ham and chicken leg quarters, as global meat prices are projected to go up due to the unprecedented spike in China’s demand for pork."

The increase in demand for pork in China is due to that same disease: African Swine Fever has wiped out many farms and wild pigs. Some estimates are that China will compete on world markets for approaching 100% of its domestic pork demand. It is, usually, a (albeit relatively small) exporter of pork. In particular, Rex E. Agarrado of the Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. told the Business Mirror that his group expects retail prices of certain pork products, such as bacon and ham, which are mostly imported, to increase.

The ban shows that Europe is not considered a single source. It also shows how global African Swine Fever has become. While the ban on imports from Japan has been lifted, the authorities saying that the risk from there is "negligible."

The list, as of the end of May was as follows

China
Hungary
Latvia
Poland
Romania
Russia
Ukraine
Vietnam
Zambia
South Africa
Czech Republic
Bulgaria
Cambodia
Mongolia
Moldova
Belgium

However, it was also said that canned pork from Belgium, China, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Russia and Ukraine was banned from August last year. The ban includes pet food.

African Swine Fever is unusual in that it survives in processed meat - which means both cooked and cured meats. It is spread by contact, including, of course, cross-contamination in kitchens.

According to research published by Iowa State University in the USA "African Swine Fever is often introduced into a herd after the feeding of uncooked / undercooked contaminated pork products which are ingested by a pig. Some species of ticks can transmit the virus" as may blood-sucking flies or insects although the latter remains subject to additional research.

Even though the problem has been growing for more than a decade (China's first reported case was in only December last year), it is said to be "endemic to wild animals in Africa," according to Infection Control Today. The journal says "The pathogen has been spreading north-westwards since 2007 from Georgia through Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia. Cases of ASF have been registered in wild boar along with outbreaks in domestic pigs in the Baltic states since 2014. The virus has also been detected in Romania, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. In September 2018, the pathogen was also found in wild boars in Belgium and thus for the first time in Western Europe."

BFR Federal Institute for Risk Assessment says that the virus does not pose a risk to humans.