With reports on dead pigs—and the number is rising—found floating in water arteries in Metro Manila, following the pitch from African swine fever affecting health thermometers that have killed pigs in several countries from Slovakia to China, it is best for consumers to exercise caution.
While medical experts say the virus is not harmful to humans although it causes haemorrhagic fever in pigs that almost always ends in death, the public would not lose anything by being heedful despite precipitous front-page pictures of officials eating roasted suckling pigs to endorse the argument that pigs are safe.
Nothing wrong with that. But with officials admitting earlier on that the African swine fever has been detected in some parts near the metropolis, like Rizal province, the picture taking, with officials in front of cameras, appears to many an incautious official gesture.
Instead of asking the population to be careful, some have the impertinence to go in front of cameras and shout to the four winds that pork is safe to eat.
Latest available figures suggest the Philippine swineherd has been estimated at 12.7 million heads, including approximately 8 million pigs in backyard farms and 4.7 million in commercial farms. In the fever-afflicted areas, more than 7,000 hogs have been culled, many buried alive.
We note that the Philippines, a basically agricultural economy, is the seventh-largest pork importer and is the latest Asian nation to be jabbed by the ASF, challenging government efforts to protect its $5-billion hog industry that included a ban on pork imports.
The Philippines had banned pork and pork-based products from more than a dozen countries, including Vietnam, Laos and China, the third the world’s biggest pork consumer. In China, where there are nearly 1.4 billion people, making it the world’s most populous nation, the ASF outbreak has spread through every province and region of the mainland.
As must be vital, Filipino officials should tighten animal quarantine and food safety measures, prohibit the transport of live animals and meat products without health and shipping permits.
And the consuming public must be careful in the meanwhile.