Concerns have been raised about the amount of beef measles cases detected during slaughter operations at Meatco.
Since operations began in January, there has been an average of seven animals diagnosed with measles every week. Meatco’s corporate communication officer, Jethro Kwenani, says Meatco’s Windhoek abattoir confirmed that beef measles is a concern for operations because affected meat is not accepted in the EU market, which is one of the most lucrative foreign markets. It is a food safety issue and its economic effects on the company could be considerable if not addressed.
There are generally two types of infestations. Meat with low infestation levels is fit for frozen packaging, meaning the meat is frozen at -12 to -18 degrees to deactivate the parasite to make it fit for human consumption. However, a high infestation sometimes means that it is totally out of the question for human consumption..
Measles is a parasitic disease caused by cysticerus bovis, which is a cystic form of human tapeworm. There are no visible outward signs of the disease and it is only detected after slaughter when the meat is inspected. The result is that the meat cannot be sold. Even though Namibia has a low prevalence rate, the disease cannot be taken lightly as it can damage the livestock industry. There are several actions that producers can take to reduce the risk of measles infection in cattle, especially with regard to animal husbandry.
“Farmers should try to avoid faecal contamination of cattle feed and grazing areas by any means necessary, meaning that farm workers and visitors must practise good hygiene by using toilets and not making use of the bush. Should a camp or pasture be known to be infected with human waste, it is best to not allow animals to graze there,” Kwenani says.
“It is important for beef producers to implement, practise and adhere to good farming practices by taking precautions to limit exposure of cattle to measles.”
Consumers are also encouraged to buy meat from registered butchers and abattoirs to be sure that the meat has been inspected and does not contain measles.