Tainted meat fears spark probe calls
Manama, September 19, 2012
Demand for meat has reportedly slumped in Bahrain amid concerns that tainted supplies are finding their way into the local market.
It has prompted calls for international experts to be brought in to conduct an independent inquiry, with butchers in Muharraq preparing to go on strike from tomorrow.
The Muharraq Municipal Council, which is spearheading protests against allegedly substandard meat, is now demanding a probe led by experts from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), World Trade Organisation (WTO) and World Health Organisation (WHO).
Council vice-chairman Ali Al Muqla revealed uncertainty over the quality of meat available had led to a sharp drop in demand, prompting some butchers to lower prices from BD1 ($2.66) to 800 fils per kilo for mutton.
"One kilo of meat costs butchers 750 fils and is usually sold to the public for BD1, but because people including restaurants and hotels had stopped buying it butchers across the country have started selling meat for 800 fils," he said.
"A week ago, it was just butchers in the Muharraq Central Market and areas surrounding it complaining.”
"Now we have garnered support from others including butchers from Bahrain's three other central markets - Manama, Sitra and Jidhafs.”
"Bahrain is a small country and what starts in one place spreads so easily. It is not just Muharraq market that is affected, the whole market is.”
"People now think twice before buying meat and because of that everyone in this country is looking for answers.”
"Is what we are eating fit for human consumption and is it halal?"
Bahrain has already announced it was looking for new livestock suppliers after authorities rejected a shipment of more than 1,000 sheep infected with 'orf' disease, which can be transmitted to humans.
However, butchers are complaining that imported meat - which is shipped into the country in chilled containers - is still below standard.
They also say they cannot guarantee meat supplied by the Bahrain Livestock Company (BLC) is halal and want to be supplied meat from animals slaughtered in Bahrain, since it would be fresher and slaughtered according to Islamic law.
Al Muqla revealed the indefinite strike planned by Muharraq butchers could be rolled out to other areas of Bahrain.
"We are currently negotiating and we have some time left," he said.
"Maybe we will wake up on the day of the strike and find no butcher selling meat."
Al Muqla, who also heads the council's consumer protection committee, urged the Cabinet to bring in international experts to help address the issue.
"For several days we have read official reports saying meat supplies are excellent, but we don't see any documents proving that," he added.
"This is why we are demanding that the Cabinet launch an international probe that includes experts from FAO, WTO and WHO - besides other international bodies concerned - to give a final report that would tell the public transparently what's going on, as pressure mounts for answers."
Butchers in Muharraq, who postponed the strike last week to await the government's response, claimed they had been supplied with tainted meat as recently as Sunday.
Al Muqla previously claimed some meat imported to Bahrain during Ramadan was more than five times the recommended temperature.
He said the sheep carcasses imported from abroad should have been stored at less than 5C, but claimed 200 carcasses were thrown away after health inspectors recorded raw meat temperatures of between 19C and 27C.
He also estimated it was up to three days between the sheep being slaughtered overseas and the meat going on sale in the market.
Around 100 tonnes of tainted meat has allegedly been imported to Bahrain over the past three years. The Bahrain Livestock Company imports meat to Bahrain and its vice-chairman Yousif Al Saleh told our sister newspaper, the Gulf Daily News last week that the company adhered to all government requirements and regulations, but declined to comment further.
Pakistan now plans to cull thousands of Australian sheep after they were found to be infected with harmful bacteria after being turned away by Bahraini authorities.
"The provincial livestock ministry ordered 21,268 sheep which arrived from Bahrain to be culled after laboratory tests showed bacterial presence of salmonella and actinomyces in them," said Karachi's top administration official Roshan Ali Shaikh. – TradeArabia News Service