I must admit, I am a little bit worried about food safety in the Philippines. There was some troublesome news last week that brought this to my mind. Around mid-week last week, it came out that three piggeries in Luzon were found to have Ebola Reston in their pork! It seems like it’s been a while since the Ebola virus was in the news, but I remember back in the 90’s when it was a major concern. It’s been out of the news, though, and when I heard the news, I had to actually stop and think about what Ebola was. It did come back to me, though.
For those who don’t remember, Ebola is a virus that is extremely deadly, although it depends on the strain of Ebola you are talking about. Most Ebola outbreaks were in Africa in the 90’s, and it either has pretty much died out in recent years, or it just hasn’t gotten the news coverage that it once did, I can’t be sure. Ebola Reston is a different strain of the Ebola Virus that is not thought to be deadly to humans, but can be deadly to monkeys. Ebola Reston was originally discovered (and named) when some monkeys were imported to the United States from the Philippines. The monkeys were being housed in Reston, Virginia at Hazelton Laberatories. I believe those monkeys were intended for a medical study. Well, a virus broke out, leading to the death of some of the monkeys. I recall seeing a documentary on TV about this case in the mid-90’s. When this happened, the humans who went into the lab to investigate the event had to wear bio-hazard suits for their safety. It was even thought that the virus may go airborn and be spread that way.
So, last week, the Philippine Department of Agriculture announced that the Ebola Reston virus had been discovered in pork from these three Luzon piggeries. This is scary. As I said previously, the virus is not deadly to humans. However, these types of viruses are always mutating, and a new strain that could come from such a mutation could be harmful to humans, we can’t be sure. All in all, it’s just a good thing not to have any kinds of virus in the food supply. When the news broke, the Secretary of Agriculture and several others made a big photo-op and news conference where they were eating a Lechon Baboy (roasted pig) to show that they had no fears about eating local pork.
This could turn into a disaster for the Philippines economically too. You see, the country had recently decided to try to build an export market for Pork. The first exports of pork were on schedule to be shipped to Singapore last week, but all shipments were halted due to the Ebola discovery. Something like this news could cause any plans to export pork to be halted for a long time. I know that in countries where the mad cow disease occurred, they are still having troubles trying to export beef.
I think that this is an issue that we all need to keep a close eye on. It can affect our personal safety, and also the economic health of a country that we love. I will still eat pork, but I will also keep a close eye on the news to see if this becomes a bigger problem.