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CHEMICALS USED TO PRESERVE MEAT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
11th January 2018

Republic of Uganda

Recent press reports have alleged that butchers are using some chemicals used to treat dead bodies to preserve meats, fish, chicken and grasshoppers (Nsenene) so that it can last for more days on sale.
 
At this point in time, the Ministry of Agriculture has not ascertained these reports or the nature of chemicals (if at all being used). The Ministry has embarked on targeted food surveillance to assess the use of any form of chemicals to preserve food of animal origin. Samples of beef, goat meat, mutton, pork, chicken, eggs and milk are being collected from retail outlets countrywide for testing at the Government Analytical Laboratory, the Uganda National Bureau of Standards and the Entebbe Veterinary Laboratories. The Ministry assures the General Public that the results will be released within 14 days and the public will be guided depending on the results of the tests.

As we await the results of lab tests, the Ministry of Agriculture is spearheading a campaign to bring together the whole food chain to tackle the problem. But this can only bear fruit if each stakeholder plays their part.

TO CONSUMERS
For now, consumers should always follow basic safe food hygiene rules to protect themselves and ensure that the foods they eat are safe. These basic rules include:

1.    Buy animal products from reliable shops, butchers or stalls that exhibit the highest level of hygiene.  A butcher shop must be tiled and have glass to protect meat from flies. The carcass should hang behind a net and the meat should be on clean tiled surface. The seller must have clean white protective apron, hair net and gumboots.
2.    Do not buy meat or any animal product with buzzing flies. It is not true that presence of buzzing flies is an indication that meat has not been laced with chemicals. On the contrary, flies are an indicator of spoilage and also transmit germs such as cholera.
3.    Don't cross-contaminate. Separate raw meat, poultry, milk and fish from other foodstuffs when shopping.
4.    Keep everything clean while preparing and serving meals.
5.    Cook to safe temperatures.  Leftovers should be thoroughly heated before eating.
6.    Consumers buying fresh, packaged, or canned food should always check to be sure the package or can is intact before purchasing. Additionally, check for expiry dates. For canned goods, do not eat the contents if the cans are dented, cracked, or bulging. These are warning signs that the product may not be safe.
7.    Avoid drinking unpasteurized milk.

TO FARMERS/GROWERS
Farmers and growers need to follow good hygiene practice and manage their operations in a way that controls food safety problems (or 'hazards'.) They for example:
1)    Must continue to comply with existing regulations, for example on the use of veterinary medicines and pesticides. Do not sell for slaughter or sell milk or eggs from an animal that is under treatment. As this can be a source of drug/chemical residues that may be hazardous to health.
2)    Practice hygiene in all farm practices such as milking.
3)    Always obtain movement permit before moving your animals because this ensures that the animals are healthy.

TO PROCESSORS, WHOLESALERS AND RETAILERS OF MEAT AND OTHER FOODS OF ANIMAL ORIGIN.

Handlers of meat and other animal products are the most probable sources of contamination for microorganisms.  It is important that all possible measures should be taken to reduce or eliminate such contamination at slaughter, in meat shops and stalls. Such measures include:
1)    Take training regarding meat hygiene seriously
2)    Slaughter facilities should install hot water, sterilizer and retention room (cooling facilities) in the facility.
3)    Wear clean attire (white clean aprons, head cap and gumboots).
4)    Promptly report disease incidence in carcasses and slaughter animals
5)    Install preventive mechanisms for rodents and insects which have great potential to contaminate the carcasses, milk, and other animal products with micro-organisms
6)    Promptly dispose of liquid and solid waste from slaughter facilities.

TO CENTRAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT LEADERS AND AUTHORITIES
a)    Raise awareness about good practices to achieve food safety and
b)    Enforce the regulatory requirements to ensure that animals that provide meat for consumption are fit for slaughter, handled humanely and processed under sanitary conditions.
c)    Unless it is emergency slaughter, all food animals must be slaughtered in authorised places. Illegal and unfit slaughter and sale facilities must be closed immediately and culprits handled as per regualtions.

FINAL MESSAGE:
‘It’s important that each one of us diligently plays his/her part to make sure that people recognise safe food, know where to source it, and know how to handle and cook food safely for themselves and for their families.
We at the Ministry of Agriculture will continue to sensitise the public, produce and disseminate the relevant information materials and ensure that the stipulated guidelines are enforced. We shall also continue to collaborate with other stakeholders in the public and private sector to ensure that these food safety issues are adequately addressed.
Anybody with questions about meat safety can contact the Directorate of Animal Resources in the Ministry of Agriculture or visit the nearest District Veterinary Officer. If you fall sick and believe the cause is consumption of meat or any other animal product, visit your Doctor and contact the Ministry of Agriculture or Ministry of Health for follow-up investigations.

I THANK YOU.

Hon. Vincent Bamulangaki Sempijja
Hon. Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries