How do you know it's 'botcha'?

By Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 12 2010 01:40 PM | Updated as of Nov 12 2010 09:59 PM

 MANILA, Philippines - Double-dead pork or "botcha" has been in the news lately for being smuggled and sold in public markets. Not only is it being peddled as "fresh" pork, it is now also being sold as "lechon."

An early-morning raid at a piggery in Pandi, Bulacan on Thursday led to the seizure of tons of "botcha." Piggery workers in the raided warehouse were caught in the act while turning the double-dead meat into "lechon" to hide traces of the meat being "botcha."

To add insult to injury, chopped pieces of the "lechong botcha" were simply strewn on the piggery floor, where stray dogs were also found moving about, eating bits of "botcha" as they pleased.

Pig intestines, also found on the floor, were being chopped into what looked like the makings of the popular dish "sisig". And in a nearby pen was a dirty and obviously sick piglet, with swollen red eyes.

The local government of Bulacan has since burned all of the seized "botcha".

Authorities have again given a stern warning to the public to be cautious of the meat they buy, after the piggery's workers admitted to plans of delivering the "botcha" to marketplaces in Metro Manila, particularly the Paco and Blumentritt Market in Manila, and the Mega Q-Mart in Quezon City.

How to spot 'botcha'

The good news? "Botcha" is recognizable, even to the ordinary market-goer.

What to watch out for when buying meat

Aside from "botcha" or double-dead pork that's pale, smells bad, and easily 'crumbles', there are other meats consumers should watch out for.

Avoid buying the following:

1. old and decomposing meat and chicken
- smell bad, green in color, slimy when touched
- often ground and used in longganisa with lots of garlic to mask the bad taste and smell
- sometimes marinated in tawas overnight to bring back the reddish "fresh" color and remove the bad odor

2. imported pork, beef and chicken not inspected by the National Meat Inspection Service
- frozen and sold in boxes
- should be used only for processing hot dog, ham, and other canned meats, according to the Philippine Association of Meat Processors, Inc. (PAMPI)

To be assured of the safety of the meat you're buying, avoid meat being sold at cheap prices. It's best to buy only from your "suki" or regular vendor whom you can trust. -- based on a TV Patrol report by Winnie Cordero, ABS-CBN News

The bad news? There's no telling which market "botcha" could be smuggled into next.

But can the ordinary buyer actually distinguish "botcha" from fresh meat? Atty. Jane Bacayo, Executive Director of the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), said yes.

Bacayo advises the public to look out for the following characteristics, and if the meat being sold displays any or all of these, it could very well be double-dead:

- meat is pale, sometimes taking on a bluish or greenish tinge;
- meat smells bad, with a stench stronger than the ordinary smell of slaughtered meat; and,
- the hair and skin have not been properly cleaned, since "botcha" is often butchered in a hurry before the meat hardens.

Bacayo compares the pale color of "botcha" meat to the pinkish hue of fresh meat, which sometimes still has blood on it.

But buyers at a local market in Quezon City said they need no further description, since they know for themselves what "botcha" looks like.

"If you ask me, I know I can't be fooled. The color of 'botcha' is a dead giveaway compared to fresh pork," said buyer Max Marasigan at the Kamuning Public Market.

"Just one sniff and you'll know it's 'botcha', even if they try to convince you it's fresh!" added buyer Clarissa Cariaga.

And buyer Ed de Jesus said, "I used to be a security guard at a slaughterhouse so I know. 'Botcha' is sticky and slippery."

Health danger

But although it's a good thing that buyers know fresh meat from "botcha," the NMIS said it's only right, since there is no telling which market the "botcha" may land in next.

"The smuggling of 'botcha' changes markets, switches places, to give authorities a hard time detecting it," said Bacayo. "But I can say this: Every single market has sold 'botcha' at one point or another."

Bacayo explained further that while there is no danger of the sick pig's disease actually transferring to the person who eats its double-dead meat, persons who eat "botcha" will still most likely suffer from diarrhea and vomiting, because they will ingest the bacteria coming from the contaminated pig's blood.

"In a dead animal, the contamination of blood is fast. And 'botcha' meat is often slaughtered in a hurry, with no time to properly drain the pig's blood. The worst that could happen is one could suffer from food poisoning, and die from contamination," said Bacayo.

NMIS reminded the public to avoid "botcha" at all costs, despite the allure of being sold at a much lower price than fresh meat.

"What good is lower-priced meat, if you'll be sacrificing your safety and your loved one's health in exchange for it?" asked NMIS.