Corporate News

Filipino Meat Processor Sets Sight on International MarketSEPTEMBER 3, 2007

A Filipino meat processing company is eyeing the international market having gotten hold of global food safety seal Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP).

Initially aiming first to satisfy the local market, the Mekeni Food Corp. (MFC) also has vision of reaching Filipinos in the Middle East, Hong Kong and maybe the US now that it has what it takes to be an exporter.

"The international market for processed meat is very discriminating. That's why we wanted to ensure first of our product's quality and food safety," said Diosdado S. Garcia, MFC vice president-operations, in an interview at a HACCP ceremony at the MFC plant in Porac, Pampanga.

MFC already has its 16 product lines covered by HACCP including all its hotdogs, sweet ham, beef tapa, pork tocino, bolagna and bacon.

By the end of the year, all its 19 product lines will have obtained HACCP. Then, its entire plant could become the country's first HACCP certified meat processing facility.

HACCP is concerned on five critical control centers: antibiotics residue on products, control on pathogens trough temperature, metal detection, freezing on storage, and temperature control upon product delivery.

To keep food safe, blast freezing of meat products goes down to as low as negative 30 to 40 degrees centigrade. At present, only MFC among several meat processors in the country has successfully kept the required freezing temperature up to almost the consumer level.

"It's difficult to achieve that quality level because distribution can be beyond a meat processor's control. We're surprised Mekeni has achieved that," said Claire Sangcal National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) Plant Operation head.

Some 30 year back, HACCP was developed to be observed in space crafts as a strict science-based measure to keep astronauts food-safe.

It has extended its usefulness as bacteria like escherichia coli and salmonella enteritidis, not formerly recognized as vital causes of food borne diseases, have emerged.

Lead which has harmful effects on the nervous system and other chemical contaminants are also a concern for specialists that approved of HACCP.

The other remaining requirement for MFC to start exporting is Luzon's certification as a foot and mouth disease (FMD)-free region. In six more months, Luzon may already apply for FMD-free status as the region has already stayed FMD outbreak-free for the last 18 months.

Even the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) whose officials just visited the MFC plant found MFC's operations of world class ranking.

Unfortunately, based on a "systems accreditation," USDA certifies as a qualified import source an entire country, not a single company. That policy becomes more pronounced as the Philippines doesn't have an FMD-free certification yet.

"We can't export to the US because of FMD. And the USDA has to see that all processors follow the standard. Hopefully we can influence other processors to upgrade to the standard," according to Prudencio S. Garcia, MFI President.

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