Stick to the real issue: dealer to DVMF chief

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011


THE Meat Importers and Traders Association yesterday said Department of Veterinary Medicine and Fisheries (DVMF) Chief Alice Utlang should not make an issue of Leo Cabangangan’s name.

The real issue, said group president Jude del Rio, is whether meat sold in the Carbon market and all wet markets under her jurisdiction is safe for human consumption.

Cabangangan had identified himself as Mario Montes. It was later learned he is not a registered or licensed meat trader in either Cebu City or Mandaue City.

Del Rio said Utlang should not question Ca-bangangan for requesting a laboratory to examine meat samples because anyone can do so if he wants to ensure the meat he buys from the market is safe.

However, del Rio admitted only the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) is authorized to conduct laboratory examination on meat in connection with the laws, rules and regulations.

He said Cabangangan’s motive for doing what he did was to get to the truth, not to prosecute anyone. It was good Cabangangan shared the result with the public, he said.
Cabangangan released a laboratory test result showing fecal bacteria in some local meat samples.

He denied he maliciously passed the result on to the media.

Own consumption

He said he was surprised when reporters approached him last Sunday.

He clarified that had he intended to divulge the result of the laboratory test, he would have called all media outlets in the city.

Cabangangan, though, was the one who showed the laboratory test result to reporters, which indicated that local (warm) meat contained Escherichia coli (E. coli) beyond acceptable levels.

E. coli is typically found in the intestinal tract and it can cause symptoms like stomach cramps and pain, diarrhea and vomiting, among others.

He admitted he commissioned a private food technologist to test local meat samples taken from a stall at the Carbon Public Market and a stall at a wet market in Mandaue City, but the result was only for his own consumption.

“I have eight children and 16 grandchildren. We all eat a lot of imported meat. And then they say imported meat is not safe. So I had local meat tested in the lab,” he said in Cebuano.

Cabangangan said he also used the test result to justify his business.

“Many have been asking me about the safety of imported meat because they know I donate imported meat to the church. It’s embarrassing if I can’t show them any proof. And if I really intended to smear the reputation of local meat dealers, I would have provided the result to all media outlets,” he said in Cebuano.

As to why he used a pseudonym when he faced reporters last Sunday, Cabangangan said no one asked for his name after del Rio introduced him.

Cabangangan said only his wife and son (Jolly and Jay) are registered meat traders at the DVMF.

Clarification

Cebu City Market Administrator Racquel Bohol-Arce said Jolly and Jay own stalls at the fish section of the Carbon market, where they sell processed meat.

“The stalls were empty so we let them (Jolly and Jay) use these. They were not the original occupants. We allowed them to sell their processed meat there because they also have good standing,” she said in Cebuano.

Arce said she awaits Utlang’s recommendation before making their next move.

Utlang clarified they will take action against the meat dealer, but she refused to divulge what this will be.

Group spokesperson Jaime Jose Escaño said Cabangangan is willing to execute an affidavit in connection with the laboratory examination.

Although the latter did not name the firm which conducted the examination, he said its slaughterhouse has a “Triple A” rating from the NMIS.

A “Triple A” rating means the slaughterhouse is allowed to export meat. “Double A” means it can only sell meat within the province, while “Single A” means it can only sell within the community.

In Cebu, only food processors/exporters with good manufacturing practices have “Triple A” slaughterhouses.

Among local government units, only the Talisay City abattoir has a “Double A” rating.
The rest of the slaughterhouses in the province, including that of Mandaue City and Cebu City, are allegedly not accredited by the NMIS because these did not pass safety requirements.

More sampling

Escaño urged NMIS to initiate meat sampling in the presence of meat importers, Utlang and Roland Tambago, president of the Central Visayas Pork Producers’ Cooperative.

He said they also consult their lawyers on what charges they will file against Utlang for making it appear imported meat is unsafe for human consumption, based on her communications with Tambago that she posted on her Facebook account. Tambago also
allegedly congratulated Utlang for her crusade against imported meat.

Escaño praised Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama for taking the test result positively.

He said Utlang should follow the mayor’s example, instead of showing her bias in favor of local meat producers to the public.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 26, 2011.

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