Industrial meat preparation is essential for ensuring food safety
- By Misheel Lkhasuren -
- Aug 06,2021
The primary food staple for most Mongolians is meat. According to a recent study, an average Mongolian family consumes 54 kilogram of meat every month in winter and 13.5 kilograms in summer. In 2019, the average per capita consumption of meat was 170.8 kilograms, an increase of 7.8 kilograms compared to the previous year. Mongolia ranks 15th in the world in terms of meat consumption. In other words, the health and safety of meat should be a priority for Mongolians, whose diet is heavily reliant on meat, and inspections and hygiene control should be ensured strictly.
In accordance with the Law on Food, the population must be able to choose quality, nutritious and safe food in a sustainable and accessible manner throughout their lives, regardless of the country’s economic, social or geographical situation.
However, in 2019, a total of 106,100 food samples were analyzed for chemstry, hygiene and bacteriology, and the pollution level was at 3.3 percent.
Last year, 33,200 violations were detected by the inspection agency, 74 percent of which were eliminated. In particular, 17.9 percent of the detected violations were related to internal control, 10.8 percent to raw material and product quality and safety, 12.6 percent to storage and transportation, 11.6 percent to packaging and labeling, 18.5 percent to sanitation and hygiene, and 11.2 percent to buildings and regulations. Violations of workplaces, equipment and tools accounted for 9.6 percent, and technological operations violations accounted for 7.8 percent.
Although violations in the food industry have been identified and addressed to some extent, its system has not been modified, and there are still conflicts that could seriously affect public health and safety.
For instance, recently, infectious worms were found from a market booth and meat cart at the Denjiin Myanga meat market. Therefore, Chief of the Mongolian Authority for Fair Competition and Consumer Protection (AFCCP) B.Bat-Erdene requested to completely ban open-air meat sales, and conduct wholesale trade in four sections of Ulaanbaatar to Minister of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry Z.Mendsaikhan and Ulaanbaatar Mayor D.Sumiyabazar.
In connection with the request, the Ulaanbaatar mayor issued a decree and open-air sale of meat and meat products was banned starting from August 1.
One of the most important decisions was to prepare meat for consumption by industrial methods only.
In Mongolia’s nomadic culture, there is a traditional way of preparing meat. Particularly, livestock must be healthy and vaccinated, and meat must not have been prepared from areas with active infectious disease outbreaks. Moreover, animals that are too old or pregnant are not slaughtered.
The method that the Mongolians use to slaughter sheep, or goat is regarded as scientific and humane. Instead of beheading them, Mongolian slaughterers cut a three-or-four-inch-long hole with a sharp knife into the area near the heart of the sheep, and then pinch its aorta with their fingers. The sheep stops breathing immediately without too much pain.
However, some traditions of preparing meat need to be reconsidered to ensure food safety. In Mongolia, animals are slaughtered on the ground, so it must be slaughtered in a clean environment, or through industrial methods.
In recent years, industrial meat production has increased. For example, in 2019, the amount of industrially processed meat had increased by 20,100 tons or 38.9 percent compared to 2015. Therefore, it is necessary to intensify the implementation of the above decision and prepare meat entirely through industrial methods.
FROM MEAT PREPARATION TO SALE
Meat goes through several stages to reach consumers. Unfortunately, the current situation shows that strict safety protocals are needed at meat processing factories and markets.
Herders bring their animals alive and sell them at the Emeelt slaughterhouse, and the meat is delivered from the slaughterhouse to Denjiin Myanga and Khuchit Shonkhor markets. Markets such as Bars, Bayanzurkh I, II, Amgalan, Bumbugur, Altjin Bumbugur, Kharkhorin and Saruul buy meat from the two wholesale markets and distribute to the public.
However, slaughterhouses have failed to meet health, safety and hygienic standards. A video depicting the operations inside the Emeelt slaughterhouse was released to the public.
The video was made by the AFCCP and the General Agency for Specialized Inspection (GASI) during inspection, and depicted very poor hygienic conditions for any type of food production.
Everyone at the site, including butchers and cleaners, were not wear disposable caps, gloves or masks. Generally, Emeelt employees do not follow hygiene rules. Meat was piled up on the ground, and there were a lot of flies and insects. The employees of Emeelt verbally abused the inspectors, demanded them to turn off their cameras, and made threats with a knife in hand.
The video proved where meat and meat products are “originally” contaminated and where bacteria and parasites thrive was revealed. Therefore, unless the conditions of slaughterhouse are regulated to meet standards, it will be useless to try to ensure safety and hygiene at meat markets.
In fact, the Law on Food specifies hygiene requirements for slaughterhouses. Particularly, in accordance with the law, animals must be slaughtered only with the permission of an authorized inspector. Slaughter of animals must be performed by a qualified, experienced, non-intoxicated, and healthy person. It must be carried out in accordance with technological guidelines to prevent contamination of meat.
Unfortunately, it is evident that the law is not being enforced at slaughterhouses. Since last year, in order to ensure the implementation of the law, Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry, GASI, General Police Department and AFCCP have jointly inspected meat and meat product markets and distribution centers in Ulaanbaatar.
During the inspection, many violations were detected with regard to transportation of wet meat, according to Head of the Agricultural Inspection Division of GASI D.Batjargal.
He said, “When wet meat is loaded in large quantities, it is easily contaminated. In other words, it affects the quality and safety of meat. There is also the issue of open transportation of meat.”
It means that in addition to slaughterhouses, health and safety of meat are compromised during transportation. It is essential for public health for meat to be sorted, packaged and delivered hygienically to consumers.
FOOD SECURITY POLICY THROUGH 2023
Mongolia’s food security policy is based on the basic principle of Article 2.16.1 of the Constitution of Mongolia, which states that everyone has the right to life, Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the National Security Concept of Mongolia, and implemented within the framework of the state policy on food and agriculture, Law on Food, Law on Food Safety, and other relevant laws, regulations and food standards.
Within this legal framework and policy, certain programs are implemented in the field of food security. In particular, Government Resolution No. 52 of 2019 was approved and the “Healthy Food - Healthy Mongolian” national program is being implemented.
The program, which will run from 2019 to 2023, aims to increase the domestic supply of 16 main food products to 70 percent of the market, increase domestic production, and reduce dependence on imports to 30 percent.
Under the program, last year, a technical assistance project was developed to create a unified electronic database to verify the origin of agricultural raw materials and products.\
Moreover, the General Veterinary Authority established a veterinary certification system to determine the origin of livestock and meat. The system includes herder information, livestock and livestock raw materials, products, transportation vehicle license plate number, routes and health certifications.
If a bar code is printed on meat packaging at the factory, consumers will be able to obtain information about the origin of meat and related information by using a smartphone application. However, the system has not yet been introduced nationwide.
The program also provides financial and technical support for the establishment and strengthening of internal control laboratories at food factories, markets and shopping centers. However, its funding was not included in the 2020 state budget.
In order to update the technical regulation of the food sector and national standards, develop new ones, and localize international and regional standards, a bill on animal health was developed and the technical regulation for meat production and trade was revised in accordance with the Law on Standardization, Accreditation, Technical Regulation and Conformity Assessment in 2020.
Last year, 14 new food standards were approved. For example, guidelines for microbiology, microbiological analysis and general requirements for meat, meat products, food and animal feed were passed. In other words, the standard related to meat and meat products was not followed before.
Within the framework of this program, explanations and proposals to regulate the slaughter industry through business licenses were developed and included in the bill on permits to ensure food safety, create an optimal system of livestock and meat supply, and improve the use of animal by-products.
This laid the foundation for a legal environment to regulate the activities of 69 registered slaughterhouses and 135 meat processing factories nationwide.
These factories have the capacity to slaughter 5.1 million sheep and 1,300 cattle within 90 to 150 days, depending on the season and demand.
Although progress is being made, there is a need to focus on ensuring the safety of meat and meat products at all levels and to reduce food-related health risks.