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Veterinary Service warns unwholesome meat products imported will be destroyed

By Wendy Amarteifio
 Veterinary Service
Veterinary Service: Cautions unwholesome meat products imported to be destroyed

The Veterinary Service Department (VSD) has cautioned that meat products imported into the country without permit will be seized and destroyed as the Christmas season draws nearer.

The decision, according to the Director of Public Health and Food Safety at the VSD, Dr. Bashiru Boi Kikimoto, was to safeguard against the importation of unwholesome meat products that could spread zoonotic diseases in the country.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 3,558 out of 4,198 deadly diseases in the world were transmitted from animal sources.

And to check the spread of such diseases, World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) regulations require that importers of animal products first have to obtain a meat import permit from the Minister of Agriculture through the VSD.

According to Dr. Kikimoto, illegal importation of animal products had become a major threat to the consuming public, for which reason the VSD was collaborating with the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) to crack the whip on importers who breached OIE regulations.

The director cautioned all meat importers to make sure they got meat import certificates from the VSD.

“We are collaborating with the FDA to fulfil the mandate given us in the Public Health Act, 2012 (Act 851) of ensuring that food that enters the body is safe and meat that is consumed is not diseased as well,” he said.

In 1999, there was an outbreak of the African swine fever that affected pigs in the country, with the Greater Accra Region being one of the hardest hit. All pigs in the region were killed, while scores of them were killed in other parts of the country.

Almost a decade after the crisis situation, Dr. Kikimoto revealed that the disease continued to kill pigs in some parts of the country.

“The disease has become endemic and still kills pigs in some parts of the Western, Central and Ashanti regions. In the Ashanti Region, for instance, about 4,000 pigs were killed in 2017. We are, therefore, very careful not to invite more zoonotic diseases into the country,” he added.

Dr. Kikimoto further asked operators of slaughter facilities to adhere strictly to safety requirements as contained in the Public Health Act, 2012 to ensure that unwholesome meat was not sold to the public.

READ MORE: FDA cautions consumers over fake products during Christmas

On the issue of unhygienic conditions in slaughterhouses and other retail facilities, he urged regulators, including environmental health units of metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs), to tighten inspection and enforcement regulations in those facilities to reduce meat contamination.

“The challenge is that there are 375 MMDAs across the country but we have only 41 veterinary officers in active service, which means that there is a huge gap even if we need only one officer in each of the districts. Also, we are handicapped in terms of resources to move to the field and enforce compliance,” he stated.

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