RWANDA – Rwanda has banned the sale of meat that has not been refrigerated for at least 24 hours before sale in order to combat the transmission of zoonotic and transmissible diseases, in accordance with an earlier legislation issued in May 2022 to regulate meat enterprises.

The Rwanda Inspectorate, Competition and Consumer Protection Authority (RICA), the nation’s basic consumer rights watchdog, claims that the rule mandated that all meat retailers obtain valid operational licenses and added stringent guidelines for butchery and slaughterhouse operators.

Zoonotic diseases, or zoonoses, are brought on by dangerous pathogens that transfer from animals to humans, including viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi.

The new rule, according to RICA’s Registration and Licensing specialist Gaspard Simbarikure, would guarantee the safety of meat consumption and reduce the risk of contracting meat-borne illnesses including taeniasis and Rift Valley Fever, among others.

“Some were complying with having refrigerating rooms and others not. We have to ensure fair competition. In addition, people will consume unsafe and poor-quality meat,” he told The New Times.

Simbarikure went on to add that the refrigeration order will also need to meet two factors; time of exposure and temperature.

“Chilling must be done at least 24 hours to ensure the effectiveness of the chilling operation. FAO has recommended chilling of at least 24 hours and reaching the temperature between 2-4 0C,” he said.

When asked about the feasibility of implementing the regulations, he revealed that the meat operators had been consulted before the rules were published.

“It provided six months of transition period for the operators to comply with the requirements including having cold facilities for large and medium-sized slaughterhouses,” he said.

He said that awareness campaigns, including ones with slaughterhouse operators and meat transporters, were carried out both during and after the transition period.

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.

All large-size, medium-size, and on-farm (for poultry rabbit) slaughterhouses will be required to adequately implement the regulations.

The veterinarian at Nyabugogo Abattoir, Leonard Shyirambere, told The New Times that they have three cold rooms or chilling rooms that can cool meat from 50 cows, 100 cows, and one that will be installed shortly that can chill at least meat from 200 cows.

“We have ordered equipment to be able to install the third cold room with a huge capacity that can help in situations such as festive seasons,” he said.

Some local traders, however, said the order would cause them losses because some customers preferred freshly slaughtered meat.

RALIS Survey

According to a survey conducted by the Rwanda Agriculture Livestock Inspection and Certification Services (RALIS) in Kigali in 2017, 65 percent of the 114 butcheries evaluated met about 70 percent of the meat hygiene and business regulations requirements.

It was discovered that at least 34% of the butcher shops sold meat whose origin and certification were unknown.

More than 50% of the butcher shops had automatic scales, whereas 94.7% had working refrigerators for storing meat.

As per the report, just 22% of butcheries had meat-cutting machinery, and 77% cut meat on a dried tree stump, which is unhygienic.

According to Isidore Nsengimana, the Ministry’s Inspector of Animal Products, the government, and traders reached an agreement in 2012 to get rid of the trunk from the butchery and adopt professional meat-cutting machines.

Last year, the Rwandan government set aside over U.S$ 1 billion to aid in the construction of at least 10 pig slaughterhouses across the country to ensure the safety of pork consumers.

It had purposed to launch two modern slaughterhouses and processing plants this year, as part of its five-year plan on upgrading pig abattoirs and other priority infrastructures for small livestock like sheep, goats, and poultry.

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