LETTER | The Malaysian government imposed an import ban on all pork products from China since Nov 12, 2018, following the detection of the African Swine Fever (ASF) virus in the Asian continent. On Sept 23, 2019, luncheon meat imports from South Korea were prohibited for the same reason.
Despite the prohibitions, canned pork products from China and South Korea are still found in abundance in Malaysia.
In fact, in October last year, the Department of Veterinary Sciences (DVS) urged all distributors and sellers of pork products from Cambodia, China, Korea, Poland, Belgium, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Myanmar and Laos to recall their products. It stressed that a ban had been established since the year before. It is an irony that despite the ongoing ban, these products still end up on our shelves, in abundance, displayed cavalierly to defy the authority.
Fast forward to now, with so many well-established non-halal outlets still defying the prohibition order, Malaysians seem to have forgotten about the imposition of the ban. I went to a reputable non-halal chain at Gardens Mall, Kuala Lumpur on July 28 and discovered South Korean and China produced luncheon meat brands up for sale.
This is still happening despite the on-going "Ops Luncheon Meat" carried out by the DVS and the Department of Quarantine and Inspection (Maqis), that had reportedly confiscated 4,538 cans on July 9 this year.
The question is, with a ban in place, how did these products end up on the shelves and what has the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industries (MOA) been doing to enforce the ban?
With the fight against the ASF virus being far from over, made in China and South Korea pork products such as luncheon meat and stewed pork seem to sell out very quickly in both online and offline stores in Malaysia especially during the recent movement control order.
Even the Ministry of Health, through a press release in November last year, warned against the possibility of these contraband luncheon meat harming the local swine industry if so much as table scraps are fed to the pigs. According to the press release, although the ASF virus does not affect human beings, food wastes that end up as a hog’s dinner can prove fatal.
There is no vaccine to date to prevent swine from getting the virus. Nor is there any cure for ASF. Death is the only fate for pigs inflicted by the virus.
There are over 500 pig farms all over Malaysia and the industry is worth RM6 billion ringgit. Malaysia’s economy is already in dire straits following the Covid-19 fallout. About two million people are expected to lose their jobs. Can we afford another crisis to hit albeit in the hog farming industry?
Before it is too late, let’s hope that there would be no more lackadaisical efforts in enforcing the ban. A ban is a ban even though it involves a group of products for which consumers are niche. The MOA, DVS and Maqis should be aware of the economic impact that could follow if smuggled products are continued to be allowed to be sold.
Section 13A of the Food Act 1983 states that any party involved in importing, distributing or selling food that consists of any diseased animal substance can be subjected to fine up to RM50,000 and eight years of jail. Maybe it is time to enforce this act, especially with another movement control order looming.
For the irresponsible importers and retailers who still would like to ring up extra profit by smuggling banned luncheon meat into the country, it is high time Maqis tightens its enforcement of Section 11(1) of the Quarantine and Inspection Services act that imposes a fine of up to RM100,000 and six months of jail for defying a ban which can potentially ruin Malaysia’s pig-farming industry.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.