Authorities are intensifying efforts to ensure that no sick animals are accepted for slaughter and no uninspected meat is put on sale.

Officials from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Ministry of Health and Child Care and local authorities, among others are coordinating an upgraded operation code-named, “Nyama Yabvepi”.

Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri said yesterday that the authorities had noted with concern recent reports on social media of unscrupulous operators in the beef value chain.

“Following shocking postings on social media that abattoir operators, butcheries and supermarkets were selling uninspected meat derived from sick and dead animals, a team of veterinary public health officers carried out extensive investigations to verify the authenticity of the allegations.

“The team could not find evidence to support the claims that meat derived from sick and dead cattle was entering the human food chain,” said Minister Shiri in a statement read on his behalf by his Permanent Secretary Dr John Bhasera.

He said the Department of Veterinary Services in his ministry had the mandate to ensure public food safety through the inspection of cattle at farms or dip tanks of origin with permits only issued for the movement of healthy animals.

“Under no circumstances are movement permits issued to move sick or dead animals. The department is also charged with the responsibility of abattoir inspections and registrations as well as ante-mortem and post-mortem inspections at registered abattoirs.

“Meat inspectors from the Ministry of Health and Child Care and local authorities also carry out meat inspections at abattoirs not covered by veterinary personnel,” Minister Shiri said.

“If sick or dead animals are detected at ante-mortem inspections, those animals are not processed through the abattoirs, but are condemned and destroyed by burning under the supervision of the meat inspector. This is done to ensure infected or contaminated meat is not sold to unsuspecting public.

“Only meat that is inspected and found to be unconditionally fit for human consumption is released for sale to the public and such meat is roller marked. The public is therefore advised to buy and consume meat that is roller marked in blue ink.”

Minister Shiri said such meat was available in reliable supermarkets and butcheries in and around urban centres countrywide.

Supermarket chains and butcheries are legally obliged to source their meat only from registered abattoirs.

It is a criminal offence for any meat outlet to sell or display for sale meat that has not been processed in a registered slaughterhouse and inspected and certified as fit for human consumption.

On the current situation of tick-borne diseases, Minister Shiri said Government was very concerned about cattle losses and was doing all in its power to provide the requisite dipping services and urged farmers to be proactive and protect their cattle against January disease (Theileriosis) and other tick-borne disease like heartwater, redwater and gall sickness.

He said whenever they were no dipping chemicals at the communal dip tanks, farmers were expected to procure their own dipping chemicals from registered veterinary chemical suppliers and distributors.

“Private dipping sessions can be done effectively using registered dipping chemicals at dilutions indicated by the manufacturers. The recommended dipping regime in Zimbabwe is once every week in summer and once every two weeks in winter or dry season.

“In summer season, tick activity is usually very high. In cases of outbreaks of tick borne diseases in an area an intensive dipping regime is recommended, 5-5-4-day dipping interval regime, meaning animals are dipped three times in two weeks,” he said.

He said January Disease was difficult to treat, especially when treatment is started in the late stages of the disease while successful treatment was dependent on early diagnosis and early treatment.

“Dead animals should be immediately burnt and buried. It is an offence to sell for direct slaughter sick animals as this poses a huge public health risk,” Minister Shiri said.

He said awareness campaigns were currently underway to educate the public to desist from eating and buying meat from unlicensed sources.

The Department of Veterinary Services was working closely with the police to bring any perpetrators to book and the public should come forward with information.

Reports can be made at the nearest police station or senior veterinary officials on the following numbers: head office 0772 260 724/0712 806 710, Mashonaland West on 0773 055 175, Mashonaland Central on 0772 223 216, Mashonaland East on 0772 311 817, Manicaland on 0773 047 102, Masvingo on 0773 066 031, Matabeleland South on 0775 169 544, Matabeleland North on 0712 608 404 and Midlands on 0772 114 571.