Rabat – In Morocco, we only have five licensed abattoirs authorized by the National Office for Food Safety. However, the share of red meat produced in these abattoirs is limited compared to the overall output.
More than 45% of the overall meat produced comes from untraceable sources and is subject to no supervision, whatsoever. This was concluded after the Supreme Court of Auditors visited 70 abattoirs between 2007 and 2015 across Morocco and made a report about its findings earlier last month.
Secret slaughtering and unlicensed abattoirs remain the main source of red meat consumed in Morocco. In most cases, the meat in question originates from unhygienic slaughtering and meat handling, thereby exposing consumers to serious illnesses and health risks.
A field investigation by the Supreme Court of Audotors found that most unlicensed abattoirs are located in populated areas while they are supposed to be far away from these. Other shortcomings range from unhealthy conditions throughout the whole process, and the lack of any system for tracking the animals slaughtered.
In addition, most slaughtering, skinning and cleaning is done at the same location, while some abattoirs do not have access to drinking water sources and electricity. Transportation vehicles also lack refrigeration and cooling systems. What’s more, conditions in rural areas are much more deteriorated compared to urban areas where things are already at their worst.
Lack of refrigeration rooms and inappropriate disposal of waste materials are other issues raised in the urgent letter sent by the Supreme Court of Auditor to the Ministry of Interior and of Agriculture and Fisheries. The letter outlines a number of recommendations to improve the performance of abattoirs in terms of safety and legal and organizational issues.
This report provides an ugly, but realistic diagnosis of the safety of our abattoirs. The consumer is clearly the most impacted party and could be exposed to a number of diseases transmitted from animals or other poisonings or contaminations resulting from inappropriate handling and transportation of meat. Getting rid of the non-accredited abattoirs would not be an easy thing to accomplish.
Neither does it seem practical since most of the demand for red meat is satisfied through unlicensed abattoirs. The safety of consumers, however, is at stake as they might end up cooking and eating contaminated and rotten meat.
It is, rather, the whole chain that we need to remedy from every aspect, starting from animal rearing, what do these animals eat and how are they raised, do they eat properly or from rubbish bins? Are they checked by qualified veterinary officers, are they slaughtered while in a good health, sick or already dead? Is there any arrangement of hygiene and sanitation of their slaughtering, transportation, and distribution?
Unfortunately, you and I already know the answer to these questions. We see evidence all around us that we are not proud of. But we still buy and enjoy meat, not minding any of the shortcomings found in our abattoirs. Purchasing and then consuming meat in Morocco is a shot in the dark that we are taking. We hope that we will not miss the target.
A real and quick change must occur. It requires a collective awareness regarding the importance of the health of the Moroccan consumer. It will come when we realize that we are no longer going to tolerate a meat that does not correspond with correct quality and safety standards.
At this stage, however, our awareness plays a major role in decreasing our exposure to such risks, in the hope that meat production will be set right as soon as possible. It is a big gamble here as the implications for consumer health could be serious.
We should, therefore, be aware enough to buy only meat that is marked (stamped) as supervised to discourage secret slaughtering and unethical abattoirs. We can use our purchasing power combined with our awareness to orient the production of red meat in a healthier, legal, and more ethical direction, although steadily.
In addition, consumers should not buy meat that is hanging in the air and exposed to the sun, dust, and high temperatures. Consumers should also keep in mind that supervised meat could be mixed with non-supervised meat.
Either in souks, shops, big supermarkets, or butchers, we have to be careful about where the meat is placed, the cleanliness of the cutting board, the equipment by which meat is handled and its surroundings. These details reveal important information about the meat’s quality and safety, particularly during the summer months where we have to be extra vigilant.
These are things we can do to protect our health, but the rest is in the hands of our guardian angels.
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