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The Department of Agriculture (DA) temporarily banned importation of poultry meat from Brazil after China reported detecting the presence of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in chicken wings shipped from the South American country.

“With recent reports from China and in compliance with the Food Safety Act to regulate food business operators and safeguard Filipino consumers, the temporary ban on the import of chicken meat is imposed,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a memo on August 14.

Section 10 of Republic Act 10611, or the Food Safety Act of 2013, states that in “specific circumstances when the available relevant information use for in risk assessment is insufficient to show that a certain type of food or food product does not pose a risk to consumer health, precautionary measures shall be adopted.”

Recent reports said COVID-19 had been detected in frozen chicken wings imported from Brazil during a screening conducted in Shenzhen, China.

Brazil has more than 3 million COVID-19 cases, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization.

DA said the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) have been monitoring COVID-19-related outbreaks in foreign meat establishments (FMEs).

In accrediting FMEs for the importation of meat, DA said it takes into primary consideration the health status of workers, in compliance with good manufacturing practices.

“Since this is a COVID-19 issue related to public health, workers engaged in meat establishments, poultry dressing plants, slaughterhouses and meat processing plants, are required to report to the DOH any unusual sicknesses,” DA said.

The agency assured the public that chicken products in the Philippine market are safe for consumption and urged consumers to verify sources of information with either BAI or NMIS for proper guidance.

As part of national efforts to control COVID-19, DA recommends that poultry farm and slaughterhouse owners consult licensed veterinarians on farm biosafety and biosecurity measures.

The NMIS has also issued guidelines and is monitoring implementation of strategies to prevent and control the transmission of COVID-19 in meat establishments.

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