MANILA - (UPDATED) Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said Thursday he ordered a temporary ban on all meat imports from Brazil after nearly 500 kilos of a recent shipment tested positive for salmonella, a bacteria that causes food poisoning.
The ban will remain while the National Meat Inspection Office investigates the contamination. A team from the department will fly to Brazil on Saturday to inspect the exporters' facilities, Piñol said.
Brazil accounts for 6 percent of Philippine meat imports.
"It will be a total ban of all Brazilian companies. But we will clear them one by one as we conduct validation," said Piñol.
"We have to make sure that consumers are protected, more than anything else. First and foremost would be the safety of our consumers."
Piñol announced the ban even as several firms called for the cancellation of a 2008 order that prescribed a plate count of salmonella on local and imported meat.
Piñol said the DA has yet to discuss the issue with the stakeholders.
"We have to make a policy on that. It's a policy, you don't just change policy overnight simply because one group suggested that," he said.
"Yung pinadala nating oyster sa Hawaii na may report lang na salmonella, binan agad tayo. Bakit tayo masyadong mabait? 'Pag tayo nakakaviolate ng food safety provisions nila, napakastrikto nila. Tapos pag tayo, sige lang, konti lang naman yan e. Pwede ba yun?"
(We shipped oysters to Hawaii that were reported to have salmonella and we were immediately banned. Why are we too kind? When we violate their food safety provisions, they are very strict. But if they commit violations, we tell them, go ahead, the bacteria count is low anyway. Is that right?)
Meat Importers and Traders Association President Jess Cham described the import ban as "unfortunate" because Brazil is an "important source of meat" for the Philippines.
To minimize the impact, the group urged the DA to inspect the plants "expeditiously," while adhering to international standards.
ABS-CBN has also asked the Philippine Association of Meat Processors, Inc. (PAMPI) for comment, but the organization is yet to issue its statement.