Buying meat? Here's how to spot 'botcha'

Posted at 03/06/2012 3:34 PM | Updated as of 03/06/2012 6:47 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) recently launched a campaign called "Chilled is Fresh... Chilled is Safe" as it encourages consumers to be more vigilant when buying meat from wet markets.

Dr. Eduardo Oblena, NMIS director for the National Capital Region, said they are now requiring vendors selling meat to provide equipment such as freezers and refrigerators to maintain the quality of their products.

"Dapat lahat ng chilled and frozen meat and meat products ay name-maintain ang temperature. Kung magtitinda sila ng ganitong uri ng karne, dapat ma-maintain ang ganitong uri ng lamig para ma-maintain ang quality at safety ng karne," he told radio dzMM on Tuesday.

Oblena, a veterinarian, said meat from newly slaughtered animals is only good for six to eight hours. If it cannot be sold within this period, the meat should be placed in a freezer to prevent the entry of bacteria.

He added that thawed meat should not be returned to the freezer and instead be cooked and served immediately.

"Hindi naiintindihan ng iba na habang nagthaw-thaw, tumataas ang fluid portion ng karne at nago-open ng microbial growth... Once pinalusaw [ang yelo sa karne], dapat di na pinapa-freeze ulit. 'Pag balik-balik sa freezer [ang karne] naglalasang papel na," Oblena explained.

How do you know it's botcha?

Here in the Philippines, mishandled meat -- from double-dead pork to products that failed to make it to the freezer -- are generally called "botcha." The term came from a Chinese word which means "not fit for human consumption."

Oblena said NMIS continues to strengthen its campaign against botcha vendors and suppliers by conducting raids and informing the public about the dangers of eating mishandled meat, which range from loose bowel movement to death by food poisoning.

He noted that most people, particularly those from low-income groups, tend to buy botcha because it is cheaper than meat sold in supermarkets.

"Mamamatay daw 'yung mikrobyo sa init kapag niluto. Pero di nila nalalaman ang nangyayari. Ang namamatay lang 'yung mikrobyo. Paano 'yung mga toxins na iniwan ng mikrobyo, 'yung mga toxin-producing bacteria? 'Yun ang nagca-cause ng food poisoning," Oblena said.

So how do you know if a meat product is safe?

Oblena said your best bet is to look for the NMIS certification, which ensures that the product is fresh and of good quality. The seal can be seen on the surface of the meat.

He also gave some red flags that you may want to watch out for:

Slimy texture. Good quality meat is tender and dry, sometimes a bit oily. A slimy texture indicates that the meat is already old.

Foul smell. Good quality meat should smell like...fresh meat. Any different smell may mean that the meat has gone bad. Watch our for chemicals that may have been added to mask the unpleasant odor.

Dark-colored meat. Good quality meat should be pinkish to pale red in color, while its fats must be white to whitish red. If the meat is dark-colored, it may have been exposed to aerial contaminants. If it is brown or in any other color, it is most probably botcha.

Very cheap meat. Good quality meat products are usually in the same price range.

Oblena added that bad meat, no matter how it is cooked, will always taste different. "Sa lasa niyo malalaman, 'di niyo maitatanggi... Para kang kumakain ng bulok," he ended.