CAGWAIT, Surigao del Sur – The Food Safety Awareness Training in Cagwait, Surigao del Sur moved residents and locals to be more vigilant and careful when it comes to the safe handling and preparation of food as the area is one of the most strategic places and tourist destinations in Caraga.
Two events were done simultaneously on April 3, 2017 in the Municipality of Cagwait: Food Safety Training for Meat Vendors, Shop Operators and Food Handlers; and the Food Safety Awareness Seminar for the General Public. The trainings are part of the ongoing campaign on Food Safety dubbed as the “Food Safe Caraga” through the joint efforts of the Caraga Food Safety Team (CFST), Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Caraga and Winrock International-Philipine Cold Chain Project (WI-PCCP) and is supported by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Meat safety, in jeopardy?
The training was composed of lectures and interactive discussions with the resource persons and the participants. Also present were personnel of the Local Government Unit from the Municipal Economic Enterprise Office. The discussion raised issues and generated further steps and solutions.
The absence of meat van in the community provides risks in the safety chain. The slaughterhouse in Cagwait assures that livestock animals are slaughtered properly. However, the transport of the carcasses remains a dilemma since at present, there is no available meat van. Transporting the carcasses from the slaughterhouse to the meat cutting plant through a tricycle is a usual scenario in Cagwait or even in other areas. Dr. Desiderio B. Julaton, Team Leader of the CFST and the former Regional Director of the National Meat Inspection Services (NMIS), emphasized that the practice is a violation of the Republic Act 1096 or also known as the “Meat Inspection Code of the Philippines”. It does not only violate the law but the process also contributes hazard to the product. Dr. Julaton challenged the LGU of Cagwait as well as the participants to create joint efforts to acquire a meat van or an accredited transportation.
Another issue that was tackled during the discussion was the slaughtering of livestock products at the backyard. Dr. Julaton, in his discussion encouraged everyone to stop the practice as it does not only violate the law but also puts the consumers at risk. Penalties and confiscation await for those residents caught doing such.
The number of meat stall vendors with no chillers or freezers in the market exceeds to more than the majority. Good Handling Practices of Meat advises vendors to use a chiller if possible. The temperature below 4 degrees Celsius delays the growth of bacteria and thus prevents deterioration and spoilage of meat. Allowed time for meat to be exposed in normal or higher temperature is up to 5 hours only otherwise it shall be removed or disposed from the display area. Inadequate cooling of meat is known to be the usual cause of food poisoning in most cases.
Food Safety: a shared responsibility
Participants aired out their opinions regarding the importance of food safety not just for them but also for the consumers. They appealed that they are already equipped with the measures and controls in food safety as they are attending such trainings, however, they were more concerned on the knowledge and behavior of the general public.
Ms. Annette Anduyan, one of the speakers from CFST, who is also connected with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) responded by challenging them to advocate food safety themselves and start it in their households. They should teach what they have learned from the trainings and apply the basic principles in food safety like avoiding cross-contamination by using color-coded chopping boards, not mixing the raw and ready-to-eat foods, proper storage of food in the refrigerator, proper cooling and heating by avoiding the temperature danger zone of 4-63 degrees Celsius, advising their employees to practice personal hygiene and wearing protective personal equipment/garments when cooking and serving food, and the simplest of all, the practice of proper hand washing.
Food safety does not only concern to the people engaged in food industry but for everyone involved in the food chain. It is a shared responsibility. The seminar for the general public aimed to encourage teachers and parents to teach children even at early age the basics of food safety in their respective homes and schools.
The Local Government of Cagwait is likewise thankful that the campaign was brought in the municipality since it is one of the favorite tourist attractions in the region. LGU Cagwait aims to promote tourism in their area and at the same time ensure that the food they are offering is not just delicious but also safe for consumption.