Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

The Marketing of Cysticercotic Pigs in the Sierra of Peru

Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

The Marketing of Cysticercotic Pigs in the Sierra of Peru

Article excerpt


Cysticercosis, a disease caused by the metacestodes of Taenia solium, is a serious public health problem in many developing countries in Latin America [1], Asia, and Africa [2]. In humans, the cyst of the taenia tapeworm can produce severe neurological disability and mortality [3-7]. In Peru, up to 12% of the neurological beds in hospitals are devoted to patiaents with cysticercosis [8]. The disease is chronic and sufficiently severe to prevent employment of the affected individual. Cysticercosis is a zoonosis, pigs being the normal intermediate host, but unlike other taeniid tapeworms, the cystercerci of T. solium also may develop in humans.

In the Peruvian highlands and high jungle, pigs are an important part of the village economy. WHO has suggested that control of cysticercosis is most easily accomplished through slaughterhouse inspection [9].(a) In areas such as Peru, where human cysticercosis is highly endemic, official slaughterhouse records indicate very low rates of porcine cysticercosis because nearly all pigs are killed clandestinely. In the Peruvian highlands, the average household owns 2-3 pigs [10]. These pigs are one of the few items that can be easily and rapidly converted into cash and, therefore, have a significant commercial value to the campesinos (peasant farmers). Without a realistic understanding of the sale and consumption of pork, suitable control measures for cysticercosis cannot be initiated. This study details how T.-solium-infected and non-infected pigs and pork are marketed in a central sierra zone of Peru where cysticercosis is highly endemic.

Materials and methods

Huancayo (population, 500 000) is located at an altitude of 3215 m (560 km west of Lima) and is the major agricultural and commercial centre of the Department of Junin in the Peruvian central highlands. Agricultural products from the western part of the country are funnelled through Huancayo to Lima.

All the observations and counts were made from 5 May to 1 June 1989, except for the purchase of 52 butchered pigs in May 1988.

Formal sector

Official sources. General information on the sale of pigs in Huancayo was obtained first by interviewing officials of the regional office of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Huancayo National Statistics Office, and the veterinary inspector of Mercado Modelo, the official local wholesale market in Huancayo.

Slaughterhouses. Interviews were conducted at two local government slaughterhouses in the El Tambo and Huancayo districts (Fig. 1) to determine the number of pigs killed annually and the number and fate of cysticercotic pigs. In both abattoirs veterinarians were in charge of meat inspection. The veterinarians corroborated that the official slaughterhouses are responsible for enforcing the rules for porcine cysticercosis and stated that all infected pigs must be incinerated without economic compensation to their owners.

Central meat market. The Mercado Modelo (Fig. 1) is the local wholesale market for all the meat sold officially in Huancayo. The meat inspector and butchers were interviewed at this market. The inspector was asked about the source of the meat, the number of pigs killed, and the number and fate of cysticercotic pigs. Ten individuals who sold pork in the Mercado Modelo were interviewed and asked where they bought their meat, to whom they sold it, and what they do if they have infected meat.

Informal sector

Live pig markets (fairs). Description. Observations were made at two local live pig markets (sale fairs) in Coto-Coto and Chupaca, on the periphery of Huancayo, where pigs are brought for non-regulated sale once a week. No official inspection of pigs is made at these markets. Pigs are bought in the following fashion. First, a buyer will agree on a price and pay the seller; the pig's tongue is then examined by a local expert. If the tongue is negative, the pig is accepted by the buyer. …

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