Press Release
July 24, 2012

'Botcha' traders face stiffer penalties with approval of Meat Labelling Act

Unscrupulous traders caught selling and transporting "botcha" or dead meat face stiffer penalties with the enactment of Senate Bill 2746 or the Meat Labelling Act into law, according to Sen. Manny Villar, principal sponsor of the bill.

Villar, who authored Senate Bill 2746 together with Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Senate Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, said that once signed into law by the President, the proposed measure aims to eliminate the sale of "botcha" by requiring all meat and meat products to bear a label indicating its place of origin.

Estrada, principal author of the measure, said the government is mandated to ensure the quality of life of Filipinos by making available safe, clean and nutritious food.

"This includes the prevention of fraudulent and unfair acts involving the sale of dead meat and meat products in the market," Estrada said.

The Senate approved the proposed legislation on final reading today with 17 affirmative votes, 0 negative vote and 0 abstention.

It was approved on second reading before the Senate adjourned its Second Regular Session last June 6.

"We have to make sure that all meat sold in our markets are fit for human consumption. That means meat that was passed and appropriately branded by meat inspectors as safe and wholesome and in which no changes due to disease, decomposition, or contamination have been found," Villar said.

He said violators will be slapped with a fine ranging from P10,000 to P50,000 and/or imprisonment of six months to two years.

Dealers and importers of "botcha" meat also face revocation of their business licenses, he warned.

The previous fine for the sale and transport of "botcha" under the Consumer Act of the Philippines was from P1,000 to P10,000 and/or imprisonment for at least two months to a year. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile lauded the proposed legislation which he said would protect consumer interest against fraud and unfair practices.

"The Senate has looked into the rampant reports of the sale of "botcha" or meat from animals which have died because of contamination or disease. The sale of contaminated food is an unnecessary health hazard that our families must not be made to endure," Enrile said.

Villar said the proposed legislation will reinforce the earlier directive of the Department of Agriculture to guide persons and entities engaged in the handling and sale of frozen meat and meat products in the markets.

Administrative Order No. 22, which was issued last December, called for the mandatory labeling of imported meat products by foreign traders.

Villar said a public alert issued by the health department warned that eating "botcha" can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, food poisoning, blood infection or work infestation from pork meat leading to brain seizures or death. The proposed legislation, he explained, will also ensure increased coordination between the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) and local government units (LGUs) with the latter supplying needed personnel to NMIS.

"Admittedly, NMIS is undermanned with only 311 personnel to manage 1,500 slaughterhouses all over the country," Villar said.

"The people's health is the State's primary concern. We cannot expect oru nation to function properly if its people are unhealthy," he added. (Apple Buenaventura, PRIB writer)

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