The wholesale meat trade on the Osh Bazaar does not meet hygienic standards and this is even admitted by specialists and workers on the market. Average buyers do not have the opportunity to see with their own eyes the conditions under which the delivery, processing and distribution is done because the wholesale market starts work from 3:00 am. The retail trade wherein most customers buy their products differs significantly from the wholesale trade.
This investigation has been prepared by the newspaper “Politklinika” in cooperation with the bureau of investigative journalism of the IWPR
Author: Aigul Bakeeva, ” Politklinika” newspaper
Wholesale meat trade
Meat is sold separately on the wholesale and retail market.
The retail market begins from 7:00 am till evening but the peculiarity of the wholesale market is in that it begins from 3:00 am till 9:00 am. We will not concern ourselves with the retail market in this article because despite some minor issues in this area the Osh Bazaar in the retail market is clean.
The meat hall has been recently renovated. Running hot and cold water is available. Sellers may change their clothes in the dressing room and take a shower in the shower rooms. All sellers wear special working clothes. There are 4 giant refrigerators wherein 5 to 6 tonnes fit in each one. Showcase refrigerators work as intended. The quality of the meat is regularly examined. In any case, working conditions have improved significantly compared to previous years.
All of this is confirmed with pride by sanitary doctors, veterinaries, meat selling unions, sellers themselves and customers.
Let us assume that the retail market doesn’t have any blemishes. Does the wholesale market fare similarly?
Let us report about this in detail because apparently all the problems lie in the wholesale market.
The wholesale market is located behind the meat halls of the retail market. On the 2nd of July last Saturday as we were visiting the wholesale market at 4:30 am the trade was bristling with activity.
The meat was being delivered in lorries of various sizes, with cars and carts. And after being stamped with approval by the sanitary doctors they were being sold in the meat halls.
It was very difficult to make out who the seller and who the customer was.
One could only find out by looking on which side the people were standing on the lorry because the sellers were not wearing any sanitary uniforms.
Due to the employees working everyday with raw meat the clothes of those pulling the carts were very dirty and smelled of blood. They carried the fresh meat up and down pressing it to their chests, this scene would ruin the mood of every customer. And this meat is supposed to go to the retail market!
These were not the intestines of a single cow but of dozens or possibly hundreds of animals.
And now excuse us dear readers, we cannot refuse ourselves from traditional Kyrgyz delicatesses. The meat of hundreds of animals must be stored in clean and cool warehouses but this market is very different. Everything is stored in the open for several hours. In another area, a puddle of water infested with blood is visible. In another area where sellers and buyers pass by each other an animal is being slaughtered and skinned (as far as I can tell it is a yak).
Animal slaughter on the market is forbidden according to the veterinaries and the owner of the bazaar. All animals are supposed to be slaughtered in specially designated areas.
This means that people do not keep to the rules.
We have mentioned that the previous Saturday was very hot. At 8:00 am in the morning blue flies have already settled on the meat remains.
If we keep in mind that the wholesale market is open till 9:00 am we must consider that the flies still feast.
The meat however that was warmed for a few hours by the summer heat is then repacked and resold the next morning in the retail market.
Now we will report on our findings from the 4th of July and 3:00 am in the wholesale market.
At 3:00 am veterinaries were already present. The weather was not hot and it was occasionally raining. The same scenes were being played all over again. The trade was taking place under open air. The only difference from our previous encounter. Because of the occasional showers the meat was packed in cellophane and veterinaries were inspecting a cow’s intestines on a table in the open. The examination that took place under open air is another violation of hygienic standards.
Who controls the wholesale market?
The director of the company Akif, who is also responsible for the meat trade on the Osh Bazaar Muktarbek Amankulov has reported to us about progress in trade, at the same time he told us about the reasons for the abysmal conditions: “I have been newly promoted to the position of director. The administration that worked previously has taken up loans amounting to 3 million 2 hundred thousand dollars. We are paying back this loan at the moment.”
That means we are currently out of cash and are unable to complete any meaningful work.
The wholesale market will be put into order. At the moment we are employing approximately a hundred workers. At the moment we have ordered every single worker a pair of new working clothes. Every worker is advised to wear working clothes but these instructions have not been met with much enthusiasm. We do not allow any animal slaughter at the bazaar. But I can promise you that the meat that is being sold at this bazaar is of high quality. This is verified by laboratories and veterinaries that regularly and experienced experts (said the director of the meat hall).
The quality of the meat is inspected by the veterinary.
Shamen Sydykov, the head of veterinary and phytosanitary state inspection reports that the veterinary service for meat on the Osh Bazaar can guarantee for the quality of meat.
23 experienced specialists who are responsible for the inspection of meat work at the Osh Bazaar.
The biochemical laboratory begins work at 4:00 am in the morning. The laboratory is supplied with all sorts of biotechnical equipment. In the first 6 months of this year 6263 kg beef, 17130kg lamb and 1138kg horse meat have been examined.
Old and new technical equipment is found within the premises of the laboratory. But the most important thing is that the basic technical equipment has been renewed from the ground up. I must underline another issue. In the second quarter of this year approximately 2 tons of meat were confiscated and destroyed due to the inferior quality of the meat not meeting standards.
This circumstance should not spread any panic. The exception of the confiscation, means that the meat is very precise and inspected and the inferior product was being examined also. These measures ensure a difficulty for meat that is not of high quality. We demand from the sellers that meat of an animal including its intestines and head should be provided for at a laboratory. Because the health of an animal can be determined by inspecting the liver and lung.
Before the delivery of meat to the wholesale market local veterinaries report about the health status of the animal that is about to be slaughtered.
The meat delivered from the various regions is examined a second time by the wholesale sellers before going to the wholesale market.
“We guarantee that the meat that is being sold at the Osh bazaar is very good” said Shamen Sydykov.
The point of case that the animal intestines is examined in open air the deputy head of the biochemical laboratory of the Osh Bazaar Raatbek Bekturov explains as follows:
In connection with the Organization for European Economic Cooperation experts will soon arrive in Kyrgyzstan for the inspection of the quality of meat. In connection with this the laboratory is currently being renovated.
That is why the inspection of meat is being conducted under open air.
If you come after the 11th of July, the renovation works will be finished. That is why the examinations under open air are only temporary. The renovation of the laboratory is being funded by the veterinary and sanitary institutions of the Kyrgyz Republic.
Where is the sanitary epidemiological control?
Muhammadkhan Murzashev, the head of Bishkek City sanitary epidemiological center for the department of food reported to us about the problems of coordination with local businesses in the following manner:
In the daily life we understand under the Osh bazaar a building in a central administration under a single person.
In reality however there exist 79 business subjects. One of them is the owner of the meat halls Akif Ltd.
We have no complaints against the work of Akif in the retail market.
The have thoroughly renovated the building that hosts the meat halls. The staff has also been required to undergo a full medical checkup. The staff has also received fully functional working clothes. A biochemical laboratory and veterinaries work here.
We have only had 3 minor complaints regarding their practices and standards.
We only control the retail market. Veterinary experts mostly check the quality of the meat. Here I explain why the sanitary doctors only check the meat.
According to law, the sanitary doctors are permitted to inspect thanks to the permission that was given to us by the Ministry of Economy.
Additional inspections are only conducted when life threatening situations occur or if written complaints are filed by the customers.
These laws are directed towards supporting the local businesses in order to bypass cumbersome regulations.
Currently we have many complaints about the quality of food. But we haven’t registered any complaints regarding raw meat.
That is why we are not conducting any additional controls.
On the wholesale market I would like to report as follow. It is located outside the Osh Bazaar, so we have no right to control it. In addition, we are allowed to conduct the controls only within the working hours of the market: from 8:30 am to 16:30 pm. But the whole sale market starts its work from 4 am. So if we inspected the situation in the wholesale market, then we would be going against the law.
Prior to this there were sanitary doctors regularly employed on the market, now not anymore, said Murzashev.
In my opinion, this law has been directed to support the entrepreneurs, but on the other hand neglects the health safety of customers. As we can see, the government resolution from the 30th of September 2014 on the streamlining of the trade and the resolution on the control of entrepreneurship aimed to support business seemed to neglect the interest of food safety of the people. They seemed to have demoted sanitary inspection because in health hazards on the market, sanitary inspection has to apply for permission from Ministry of Economy to check it. In short, there is only veterinary inspection on the bazar which controls the quality of meat but the trade conditions and the health conditions of workers are being repeatedly neglected because of the lack of regularly employed sanitary doctors on the Bazaar. They visit the Bazaar only once a year or only in an emergency health situation. And even then, the situation is not controlled by them on the wholesale market. Let us hope that this situation won’t negatively influence the health safety of people. Myskal Smanakunova, who has been working on the wholesale meat market from 1997 says, that farmers slaughter their cattle themselves and deliver it to her as already processed meat. She can confirm by the documents that the meat is of good quality. She can’t insist that the conditions on the whole sale market are solely bad, the roof of the building has been repaired, conditions are going to be better, -she said.
Since 1997, shepherds have been bringing their slaughtered meat to Myskal Smanakunova who works at Osh Bazaar. The quality of the meat is good and there are documents that prove it. The wholesale trade conditions are far from bad and one can say that progress has been made regarding the roof of the market.
Despite the rain, water doesn’t permeate through the roof. Prior to this we used to live under open air. For many years we have been responsible for the quality of the meat for the wholesale trade. All of our documents are complete – they said.
Jalal Sydykov who previously worked as a zootechnical-selectioner at the “Rossiya” kolkhoz in Talas is now involved in selling meat and has experienced the ups and downs of the meat trade.
He has created an assembly that guarantees the best quality and compliance of standards regarding meat coming from various regions of the country.
Whereas he was previously engaged in selling meat at the market, he has now left his profession.
The sanitary requirements haven’t been fulfilled for many years. We have become sick and tired of telling this to the bazaar owners. Even now the sanitary requirements aren’t being implemented. Even the Islamic requirements aren’t implemented which stipulate that halal meat ought not to be stored together with pork. One must however say that the meat bazaar still has its loyal customers due to the experienced workers who have implemented well established systems.
The quality of the meat being sold is excellent.
But veterinary specialists claim that the requirement of separating pork from beef and mutton as a regulation does not exist.
Despite this, the “Akif” director showed us that during the bazaar administration the pork was being sold separately in a corner on the second floor.
Shamen Sydykov, the deputy head of veterinary and phytosanitary inspection of the Kyrgyz Republic in Bishkek came to the above conclusion and further added:
In recent times, there have been no reports of infectious diseases at Osh Bazaar due to regular screening. Due to the absence of contagious diseases state courts and prosecutors have not filed any complaints.
Last Saturday and Sunday social networks reported the prevalence of anthrax in Kyrgyzstan however this was vigorously denied by the press service of the Ministry for Health. The situation regarding anthrax is calm. There are no occurrences of any such event said the press service of the Ministry of Health.
Almaz Jeenaliev, head of the government apparatus, links this confusion to a misunderstanding where a case of anthrax was verified on the 16th of June in Kazakhstan.
The meat that enters the Osh Bazaar is supervised but the veterinary specialists regret that sometimes sanitarily undesirable meat enters the wholesale market. Apart from the above mentioned example there have been other cases on the wholesale market where veterinary supervision was circumvented.
For instance, on the 4th of July at 6:00 am in the Kiev section, there were dozens of carts loaded with meat being sold without the seal of approval by the veterinary services. Further questions arise when lorries loaded with meat and parked outside begin their trade before they even enter the market. If we don’t pay attention to such shady dealings, then very soon we will come to a dire situation. For the time being, no contagious diseases have been reported at the Osh Bazaar but if we don’t take any drastic measures soon then this will definitely be to the detriment of our population.
Despite raw meat food poisoning never being witnessed here, many cases of food poisoning have been documented in public eating places.
Whether they were a result of the unregulated sale of meat is unknown. In 2014, 23 people were reported to have suffered food poisoning from meals served in the restaurant “Mansur”. In 2015 8 suffered food poisoning in the “Tash-Kordo” restaurant. In the Osh region 8 people suffered poisoning.