Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hygiene standards lacking in meat industry

Hygiene standards lacking in meat industry

Hygiene standards lacking in meat industry

A meatworker debones a carcass at a private city slaughteryard.

P

hnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara is moving against illegal slaughterhouses for

hygiene and tax evasion reasons, but hygiene issues also arise in some legal slaughterhouses

and markets.

Sophara, whose office monitors the quality of the meat that is brought to markets,

said he would close down illegal slaughterhouses. The reason for this, he said, was

because of concerns with the poor quality of meat on sale in some establishments.

"Any meat that is bad should not be put on sale," he said. "Meat that

does not have the seal of approval from the inspectors will be thrown away. [Vendors]

will be fined if they sell bad meat to the people."

The issue of meat quality is not unique to Cambodia, but it is clear that its origins

are not restricted to slaughterhouses, legal or illegal.

Although butcher and "Sausage-King" Rolf Lanzinger, owner of Danmeats on

Street 214, agreed that poor hygiene at some of the slaughterhouses was one reason

for poor quality meat, he said another important factor was the way it was handled

in the markets.

The result of combined poor practices, the Post asked? "Most Cambodians suffer

from chea puah [bad stomach]," he replied.

A cursory glance at one of the city's legal slaughterhouses, many of which are sited

in residential areas, raises questions of basic hygiene. Butcher Chor Cheng, who

works in Steung Meanchey, said that he needs a shot of rice wine before killing an

animal. Only then does he have the energy and courage to do his job.

After a cow is killed a worker collects its blood in a pail, guts it and processes

the carcass. This can last between 45 minutes and one hour, and the worker earns

around $2.50. This takes place while the carcass lies on a concrete floor, a departure

from international standards which require it to hang from the ceiling. After the

animal is skinned and carved, buyers inspect the meat on site, or have it delivered

by moto or on an open trailer.

Despite the rusty hooks and the absence of tiled floors and walls, the Khmer method

of slaughter does not inherently make for unsafe meat. Government inspectors make

daily visits to check that the slaughterhouses adhere to minimum hygiene standards.

The meat that passes is stamped with a purple mark.

Meat sold in the market, where retailers, such as the Central Market, is hung in

the open, often in 35-40 degree heat. Customers regularly handle the chunks until

they find one that satisfies.

One retailer, Kean Chong, who has sold pork for 20 years, said she had to clear her

stock of meat each day before going home.

"Sometimes I stay at the market until noon; other times until as late as 5 pm,"

she said.

Danmeat's Lanzinger, however, said he was less certain about hygiene habits of some

retailers.

"The meat hangs outside sometimes until 5 pm. Then if it is not sold, it is

stored in an icebox overnight, then put out again the following morning. This is

the really dangerous part," he said.

He added that the country was at a disadvantage as many of those educated people

who knew about hygiene had been killed by the Khmer Rouge, although awareness was

coming back slowly.

A carcass is prepared for the table at a city slaughterhouse.

Meat inspector Hong Sokhieng monitors the Boeng Salarng slaughterhouse. Each night

he inspects around 20 cows and 70 pigs. He said that in his three years working as

an inspector, he had not found any particularly dangerous diseases.

"Vets determine that the animals are in good health before they arrive,"

he said. "If the cows had contracted anthrax, they would have died on their

way to the slaughterhouses."

Tom O'Connor, manager at the FCC of Cambodia, said he sourced meat from trusted local

suppliers or imported it from Australia.

"As long as the local meat is clean and fresh there should be nothing wrong

with using it," he said, although he does not buy meat from the market himself.

Well-cooked beef was quite safe as bacteria could not survive temperatures above

70 deg. C, he said.

Dr Elliott Potter, a veterinarian with 37 years experience, said meat from the markets

was "pretty safe".

 

Dr Potter, who works for the Agricultural Productivity Improvement Project at

the Department of Animal Health and Production, gave a number of market tips: Get

there early, as the earlier meat is bought, the better its condition; ensure the

meat looks and smells fresh; watch for cuts that attract flies , as flies indicate

that the meat has started to spoil.

He also recommended that customers refrigerate their meat and eat it on the day of

purchase. Lastly, cook all meat thoroughly.

"Nobody is dying from eating meat, but there are a lot of people spending more

time in the toilet," he concluded with a laugh.

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