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Major issues about the Safety of Meat in Nepal

by Yadav Sharma Bajagai

Safety of meat sold and consumed in Nepal is a major concern since long and debate about the legislation and its enforcement to assure safe meat to public has been continuing for more than a decade. Recent incidence about import of frozen chicken by International food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) from India once again makes meat safety the issue of widespread public and media interest. Government has suspended the suspected officials and started the investigation. This is out of scope for this article but issues about meat safety and enforcement of legislation has been discussed here. 

Annual consumption of meat in Nepal is approximately 250,000 metric ton. Buffalo, goat, sheep, pig and poultry (chicken) are the major meat animals in Nepal. Although meat is an excellent source of protein and other nutrients in human diet, it can pose a significant health risk due to easy growth of pathogenic microorganisms and other zoonotic disease agents. Despite its widespread consumption in Nepal, meat is one of the most unsafe food items sold in the market. In an attempt to ensure the availability of safe meat to the public, government of Nepal formulated and enacted the Animal Slaughterhouse and Meat Inspection Act 1999 and regulation 2001. Among more than 100 food standards of Nepal, no standard is found about meat and meat products. 

High prevalence of meat borne zoonoses

Studies by different scientists have evidenced that prevalence of meat borne zoonotic diseases in Nepal is very high as compared to those in developed countries. In a study 9.2% of the meat samples collected from capital city of Nepal (Kathmandu) were found to be positive for Salmonella species which is one of the major causes of food poisoning. Approximately 50% of the isolates were multi drug resistant. In another study, 11.4% of meat samples were found positive for salmonella in Kathmandu.Similarly, several meat borne parasitic zoonoses like trichinellosis, taeniasis, echinococcosis/hydatidosis etc. have been reported from different part of the country in different meat animals. Pigs in several urban area of the country has found infected with Taenia

Animal Slaughterhouse & Meat Inspection Act 1999 and Regulations 2001

The animal slaughterhouse and meat inspection act has two major objectives, firstly to prevent adulteration and contamination of the meat during and after slaughtering and secondly to ensure slaughter of healthy animals without any disease condition which can make the meat unsafe for human consumption. This law has compulsory provision of ante mortem inspection of the animals by qualified meat inspector before slaughtering in slaughter house or designated place. After ante mortem inspection the inspector either give permission to slaughter the animal or reject or hold for further examination. Similarly, carcass of the animal after slaughter should also be inspected by meat inspector. The inspector marks the wholesome meat with stamp and also has right to condemn whole or the part of the carcass in case of any disease condition. The inspector may send the carcass for further test in case of any doubt.

Major issues relating to the safety of meat

Failure to enforce Animal Slaughterhouse & Meat Inspection Act


The act has the provision that the government can enforce the act in designated area from designated date upon notification in Nepal gazette. The most frustrating fact about the law is that it hasn’t been successfully enforced till now. The government has tried to enforce the act in some of the municipalities of the country by constructing slaughter houses but those slaughter houses were not utilized by the meat enterprisers. Turbulent political situation of the country for more than a decade and lack of adequate awareness among meat entrepreneurs, consumers and other stakeholders are suggested as the reasons behind the failure of enforcement of the law.

Lack of Infrastructure


The country is still not fully capacitated in terms of infrastructure and human resource development to implement food safety regulations. There are no adequate numbers of modern abattoirs in the country. Some slaughter houses made with the assistance of donor agencies are also not being operated satisfactorily. Lack of modern and hygienic abattoirs made people slaughter the animals in streets, open lands, pasturelands, riverside and courtyards. Meat animal traders collect the animals from farmers and keep them in certain designated places for sale. These animals are bought by the butchers who kill the animals to sell meat by themselves or by meat sellers nearby. Presently, there are some modern slaughter houses ready to use and a few more are being constructed. Awareness in meat entrepreneurs and consumers about the importance of good slaughtering facilities in the health of consumers is very important to operate these facilities smoothly.

Poor Hygienic Practices during Slaughtering and Marketing of Meat


Poor hygienic practices during slaughtering and marketing of meat is one of the major contributing factors for unsafe meat in Nepal. Slaughtering animals in open and unhygienic places, use of dirty water during slaughtering process, and selling meat in open and non-refrigerated places are some of the unhygienic practices being used by the entrepreneurs.  Slaughtering of animals in unhygienic place and use of polluted water contaminate the meat with different microorganism which can be harmful for the health of the consumers. Keeping quality of the meat processed in these facilities is also bad.
Due to continuous effort from the government and many other non-governmental development partners, there are some progress in practice of slaughtering and meat handling. Butchers started to use covered courtyard with concrete floor to slaughter the animals and meat seller started to keep meat covered and refrigerated.

Lack of Awareness among Stakeholders


Lack of information and knowledge about food safety among all stakeholders including producers, traders, consumers and even some government agencies has been regarded as one of the reasons preventing successful implementation of rules and regulation regarding food safety. Most of the small entrepreneurs are not aware about Good Hygienic Practices (GHP) which directly impede the safety of their products. Lack of awareness among different stakeholders has been stated as one of the major causes for the failure of enforcement of the slaughterhouse and meat inspection act.

P.S. References are available on request. 


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