Rwanda has banned the supply and sale of meat that is not chilled in cold-rooms for at least 24 hours as means to curb zoonotic and transmissible diseases.
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According to the Registration and Licensing Specialist at Rwanda Inspectorate, Competition and Consumer Protection Authority (RICA) Gaspard Simbarikure, the directive is based on regulation governing meat businesses adopted in May 2022 but which was not adequately being enforced.
He said that the directive is not for beef or pork only since 'each animal species can have zoonotic and or transmissible diseases.'
Zoonosis is an infection or disease that is transmissible from animals to humans under natural conditions.
"Some were complying with having refrigerating rooms and others not. We have to ensure fair competition. Consequences on health, if not done as adhered to, is the risk of contracting some diseases such as Rift Valley Fever, taeniasis, and others. In addition, people will consume unsafe and poor-quality meat," he explained.
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He added that meat must be cooled in refrigerators for 24 hours based on two factors.
"For success of any operation like chilling, there are two factors to be considered including time of exposure and the temperature; not only the required temperature must be reached but also the holding time is also very important.
It is in this regard that the chilling must be done at least in 24 hours to ensure the effectiveness of the chilling operation. With to post management of Rift Valley Fever, FAO has recommended the chilling of at least 24 hours and reaching the temperature between 2-4 0C," he said.
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Six months of transition period expired
Simbarikure assured that the directive implementation is feasible because the slaughterhouses and meat transporters were consulted since last year in May when the technical regulation governing meat businesses was published.
"It provided six months of transition period for the operators to comply with the requirements including having cold facilities for large and medium-size slaughterhouses," he said.
He said that during and after the transition period, awareness including with slaughterhouse operators and meat transporters were conducted.
"Until March, 2023 when we had the latest meeting and concluded to start chilling by March, 14, 2023. In addition to this, in November, there were individual on-site meetings with slaughterhouse operators and the butchers countrywide to sensitize and request them to prepare the implementation of this measure," he noted.
He said that the directive is not temporary as the safety and quality of meat is always needed.
"All large-size, medium-size and on-farm (for poultry rabbit) slaughterhouses are concerned by this directive and shall implement it correctly," he added.
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Are businesses ready?
Leonard Shyirambere, the veterinarian at Nyabugogo abattoir told The New Times that they have installed one cold-room or chilling room that can cool 50 cows, one that can chill 100 cows and the one to be installed soon to cool at least 200 cows.
"We have ordered equipment to be able to install the 3rdcold room with a huge capacity that can help in situations such as festive seasons," he said.
However, he said that due to the cost of additional facilities, the cost charged per slaughtering one cow, for instance, could also be increased soon.
"We have clients from different districts who bring cows for slaughtering. Others buy slaughtered cows from us. They have cars which also have cooling rooms. Very soon we will negotiate about the charge to be added," he said.
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Francois Kimonyi, the Managing Director of Kabuga slaughterhouse said that they have secured at least cold-rooms that can store at least 150 cows.
"We were invited while drafting the regulations and were given time. Now it is the enforcement. I think where we will face challenges we will seek help. We bought equipment and installed cold-rooms although they are not yet enough," he said.
Meat retailERS have called for strategies to ensure a stable supply of meat.
"We could get meat on time from suppliers. I think they should ensure supply doesn't delay and that prices are not hiked," Nadine Mukamunana, the owner of a butchery in Kamukina sector of Gasabo district said.