Anthrax-tainted meat linked to multiple deaths

By Vladislav Vorotnikov

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Meat Kazakhstan Beef

Livestock can be infected with anthrax if they breathe in or ingest spores in contaminated soil, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
Livestock can be infected with anthrax if they breathe in or ingest spores in contaminated soil, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
Two people have died and seven have been hospitalised after eating meat contaminated with anthrax in Kazakhstan, according to the country’s National Economy Ministry.

The government has put the blame on nearby cattle burial sites and has promised action in order to avoid future outbreaks.

In an announcement on 24 June, Kazakhstan’s Agriculture Minister Askar Myrzahmetov said there were several burial places near Erkindyk village, where the outbreak took place, and that preliminary results of an investigation showed that cattle grazing nearby might have become contaminated.

Anthrax has ​[the] ability to be stored in the soil for over a hundred years,” ​explained Myrzahmetov. “If appropriate standards for burial places were met, there would not be any outbreaks. But not all burial places are complying with these standards. We have now established a special commission which will work on this issue.​”

The government is to buy vaccines against the disease and will run checks on nearly 2,000 officially registered animal burial places across the country. According to Myrzahmetov, the first cases of anthrax​ were registered in Kazakhstan several decades ago, but he expected the situation to improve in 2017.

Partners’ reaction

Trading partners within the Eurasia Economy Union expressed strong concerns over the safety of meat supplies shortly after the incident.

Kyrgyzstan​ had declared enhanced veterinary controls at the country’s border, said its head of State Veterinary Inspection, Kalysbek Zhumakanov on 27 June during a session of the Agrarian Policy Committee.

MP Mirlan Bakirov, commenting on the decision of the veterinary body, claimed there should be even more serious measures, including restrictions on imported of beef from Kazakhstan, since it posed a direct threat to the lives of consumers.

Saktash Khasenov, chairman of the veterinary inspection of Kazakhstan’s Agricultural Ministry, announced recently that he is not expecting any problems with the country’s beef supplies to the foreign market as a result of the outbreak.

But some market participants say they have already faced problems. According to cattle farmer Talihan Mahmuhamedov, from Akmola Oblast in Kazakhstan, delivery of several shipments of beef to the Russian market have been suspended.

Our client in Russia says it is not willing to purchase beef, since there is an unofficial order to the Russian customs officers to pay very close attention to Kazakhstan’s beef and, in fact, not allowing it to get into the country, at least until the current situation is resolved,​” he said.

Russian veterinary body Rospotrebnadzor advised Russians to be very careful in Kazakhstan about beef consumption and not to have any contact with cattle if possible. At the same time, veterinary or sanitary bodies are not confirming the introduction of any restrictions.

The beef export issue is crucial for Kazakhstan because the country is currently pumping large amounts of money into production of this type of meat, with a target of bringing delivery of 100,000 tonnes to the foreign market within the next few years.

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