'No mad cow in PH, beef safe to eat'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 26 2012 02:38 PM | Updated as of Apr 27 2012 03:29 AM

MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) – Beef products in the Philippines are safe to eat despite reports of mad cow disease in the United States, a government official said Thursday.

Dave Catbagan, Assistant Secretary for Livestock of the Bureau of Animal Industry, said US beef products that are now in the country are still safe.

He said the country’s trading partners have given assurances that US cows positive for the disease will not reach the food chain.

“Ang sinasabi natin US beef now in the Philippines in the supermarket, tindahan, hotels is safe to eat,” he told radio dzMM.

“Makukuha mo yung mad cow sa ugat, nerve or spinal column kung saan ang ginagawa ng mga bansa ay tinatanggal ang mga yun. Hindi na pinapakain,” he added.

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) also assured Thursday that it is tightly monitoring the entry of beef from the US.

 "We cannot be complacent. We shall closely coordinate with concerned agencies in monitoring the entry of beef and its by-products coming from the US," BOC chief Ruffy Biazon said in a press statement.

The Department of Agriculture said there is no need to ban US beef products being imported by the Philippines.

Dr. Florence Silvano, Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) quarantine chief made the statement since the mad cow situation in the US is said to be a "controlled" case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

Next to Australia, the U.S. is the second largest source of beef of the Philippines.

Biazon has ordered all DOC District Collectors to implement "100% examination" of all frozen meat, agriculture, poultry and fish products loaded in refrigerated container vans.

In a memo, Biazon said the imported products will be examined by members of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service, Task Force on Revenue Enhancements for the Attainment of Collection Targets, representatives from the Department of Agriculture, and other agencies.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) earlier confirmed the fourth case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease in California. This prompted 2 major South Korean retailers to suspend sales of US beef.

The government usually imposes a ban on farm products from countries where there are confirmed cases of diseases such as BSE and avian or bird flu.

Indonesia suspends some US beef imports

Meantime, Indonesia suspended imports of boned meat and innards from US beef Thursday but boneless meat remained unaffected, authorities said, after a new case of mad cow disease in California.

US authorities Tuesday reported the country's first case of mad cow disease in six years. They stressed there was no danger meat from the affected dairy cow would enter the food chain.

"We have decided to stop importing bone meal, innards and boned meat from the United States, but imports of boneless meat will continue," Indonesia's deputy agriculture minister Rusman Heriawan told AFP.

"The suspension starts today, but we don't know how long it will remain in effect," he said, adding that shipments en route will not be affected.

The United States supplies only a small volume of Indonesian beef imports, which largely come from Australia and New Zealand.

Beef innards such as liver, kidney, heart and intestines are widely used in Indonesian cuisine, but prime cut boneless meat accounts for a large part of US beef imports.

Last year Indonesia imported 100,000 tonnes of beef from around the world, local media reported, and the United States exported nearly 18,000 tonnes of beef products to Indonesia, valued at $28.2 million, according to figures from the US Meat Export Federation. -- with Agence France-Presse