UGANDA – Despite growing concerns over the misuse of anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs in the fattening of pigs and chickens, pork and chicken sales in Uganda remain unaffected, according to local dealers.
This alarming trend has raised concerns about potential risks to consumers and the need for urgent industry reform.
Deogracias Agenonga, a shareholder of Kampala-based Pork Junction, revealed that business is booming as usual, despite worries about ARV-laced animal products.
According to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Uganda boasts a high consumption rate of pork and chicken, with the average person consuming 3.5kg and 1.5kg per capita, respectively.
Isaac Kalani, operator of Verse One Pork Joint, echoed similar sentiments, emphasizing that pork from slaughterhouses is rigorously inspected by veterinarians to detect any signs of ARV-related issues.
However, testing for ARV contamination remains a complex process and is not typically conducted as part of standard meat assessments performed by animal health scientists.
This raises concerns for those who buy directly from farmers, as lower-priced pork may carry unforeseen risks.
Mr. Ronald Walugembe, who runs Pork Tastes Uganda, downplayed ARV concerns, attributing fluctuations in pork sales to people’s financial circumstances. He noted that ARV misuse is not a top priority for their business.
The apprehension surrounding ARV-laced animal products has grown in recent times, prompting discussions between Parliament’s Committee on HIV/AIDS and the National Drug Authority (NDA).
“ARVs are primarily intended for treating HIV/AIDS in humans, and their misuse in animals can lead to drug resistance and other health complications,” Mr Walugembe said.
“Efforts to address this issue have encountered numerous challenges, including the discovery of some commercial animal feeds adulterated with ARVs.”
Meanwhile, Law enforcement agencies have made arrests in connection with the illegal possession and sale of ARV drugs in the livestock industry.
While the matter has gained significant public attention and raised concerns on an international scale, similar practices have been observed in other countries.
Some experts advocate for improving animal welfare conditions and prohibiting the use of medically important antibiotics as growth promoters to address the problem.
However, transitioning the industry to reduce reliance on antibiotics may be a slow and costly process. Nevertheless, it is deemed crucial to prevent antibiotic resistance, which can have detrimental effects on both human and animal health.
As the pork and chicken industries in Uganda continue to thrive despite ARV contamination concerns, calls for reform are growing louder.