Task force to tackle imported pork product issue from AFS-infected countries

Department of Veterinary Services director-general Datuk Dr Quaza Nizamuddin Hassan Nizam leading an integrated operations targeting the entry of pork and pork products to prevent the African Swine Fever (ASF). - Low Lay Phon/The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: A task force has been formed by the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry to look into the issue of imported pork and pork-based products from banned countries after the DNA of African Swine Fever (ASF) virus was detected in a sample of canned pork luncheon meat in Sarawak.

Veterinary Services Department (DVS) director-general Datuk Dr Quaza Nizamuddin Hassan Nizam said three ongoing inspections were conducted in three locations on Thursday (Oct 31).

Dr Quaza said these were from an importer and distributor of canned pork products and two restaurants which served suckling pig.

He noted that so far, 60 boxes of canned food products have been confiscated.

Dr Quaza also said those involved in the operation were a team of 20 consisting of those from the Royal Malaysian Customs Department, Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services (Maqis), Food Safety and Quality Division, the Health Ministry and the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry.

"Today's inspection is to monitor and examine the conditions at the dealership or seller's premises to stop the selling or to recall the pork-based products or suckling pig that are banned from countries such as China and Vietnam," he said during a press conference on Thursday (Oct 31).

Dr Quaza said the products that were confiscated were manufactured in July 2019.

"That means perhaps these products were smuggled in and this is something which we do not want to happen because a ban has been imposed since November (last year)," he said.

He said pork, pork products and canned products found tainted can be seized, adding that an investigation would be conducted under the Customs Act 1967 (Act 235) or under the Maqis Act 2011 (Act 728), whichever is appropriate.

He said for suckling pigs, samples will be taken for laboratory testing, adding that investigations will be conducted under Section 18 and 19 of the Animals Act 1953.

"In the event of the presence of the virus, the product will be destroyed," he said.

It was reported that Sarawak has banned all pork and pork products imported from countries hit by ASF including China, until further notice following the discovery of the ASF virus in a canned pork luncheon meat product imported from China.

The Department of Veterinary Services Sarawak (DVSS) had noted that so far no ASF infection in pigs have been reported in the state.

Dr Quaza also said DVS will be working closely with Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to curb the sales of pork products online.

"I want to urge the public to not purchase (pork) products online from China because it should not be in the market," he said.

He urged the public to lodge a report should they come across pork products from banned countries.

Malaysia has imposed an import ban on pigs and pig products from China, Poland, Belgium, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Laos, and South Korea.

Dr Quaza noted that for imported pork supply and value-added pork products, the public should buy products from authorised countries only such as those from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, USA, France, Italy, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.

He also urged pig farmers to not conduct swill feeding on pigs and to instead ensure that the pigs were being fed commercial feed to cut the risk of the virus infecting their pigs.

"Farms also have to increase their biosecurity safety. It is also the responsibility of the farmers to report any deaths on its farm to the state authorities," he said.

Previously, Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Sim Tze Tzin had said that an ASF outbreak would not only affect individual farmers' livelihoods, but could also cost the industry and its related businesses RM5bil in losses.

Malaysia has more than 600 pig farms nationwide, including Sabah and Sarawak, with a swine population of 1.5 million.

The states with the most pig farms are in Perak, Penang, Johor and Melaka.

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