VERA FILES FACT CHECK: ‘Kikiam,’ ‘fishball,’ not made of snake meat

A Facebook post of a Filipino netizen about the alleged use of snake meat as an ingredient in several street food is false. The photos used in the post were neither from the Philippines nor for street food production. A similar story has already been debunked in Thailand.

STATEMENT

A Facebook post that has been circulating since 2016 was republished by a netizen on July 8, and reposted by another netizen on Sept. 15, claiming popular Filipino street food items such as kikiam, fishball, and chickenball are made from the meat of pet snakes and pythons. It reads:

Alam Niyo ba na ang kinakain niyong Fishball, Chickenball and Kikiam ay Gawa sa Ahas (Sawa) at hindi sa Isda O manOk?? Legal at Alagang ahas o sawa ang ginagamit para sa produktong ito ..Pero ngayong naLaman niyo na, the onLy question is GAGANAHAN KA PA BANG KUMAIN NITO GAYONG GAWA ITO SA "AHAS" ?? #Pasintabi
(Did you know that the Fishball, Chickenball and Kikiam you eat are made from snakes [python] and not fish or chicken? Legally-owned pet snakes or pythons are used in these products. But now that you know this, the only question is: Would you still have the appetite to eat these, knowing they’re made from “snakes” ?? #Apologies).”

Source: Facebook post, Alam Niyo ba na ang kinakain niyong Fishball…, July 8, 2019

The July 8 post, which has been shared over 25,000 times, was accompanied by nine photos supposedly showing the process of making street food out of the snake meat.


FACT

There is no evidence there are street food in the Philippines made from snake meat. Also, the photos used in the false post did not come from the Philippines and did not pertain to the production of street food.

A reverse image search of the photos used in the Facebook post reveals none of them are actually from the Philippines. Nor are they of snake meat being prepared as Filipino street food. Instead, the photos are from:

  • a netizen’s tweet in January 2015 showing snakes hung inside a warehouse at “Langowan Market” in Indonesia;
  • an October 2007 photo essay by Turkish news organization Haber 7 of a snakeskin work shop in Malaysia that supplies raw material for snakeskin bags, showing:
  • a Livejournal entry by blogger ternovskiy in September 2010 after a trip to McDonald’s beef patty supplier Marr Russia in Russia, which featured a worker waiting on ground beef being churned out by an industrial-size meat grinder;
  • an August 2014 tweet by a netizen written in Malay, of uncooked fish balls;
  • the May 2015 article of blog site xn--12cfi6cya3cfedcyb3d1fc0bd3si3evf, which showed a bowl of pork meat; and
  • a Facebook post in December 2014 of some fishballs in a green bowl.

In a Sept. 19 email to VERA Files, the Food and Drug Administration, which guarantees “the safety, quality, purity, efficacy of products in order to protect and promote the right to health of the general public,” said it “cannot confirm this matter as there is no supporting evidence or proof that the issue at hand actually exists or even happens in the country.”

A cursory search on the origins of this story on the Web led to multiple websites and social media posts dated as early as August 2014, saying fish balls in Thailand were made up of snake meat. This was debunked in reports of several Thai media outlets that December, noting that some of the photos used in the posts were related to the use of snake skin in the leather industry.

In a Sept. 23 email to VERA Files, Thai journalist Peerapon Anutarasoat, who reported about the issue in 2015, said there was “no evidence” of the use of snake meat in fish balls, among other food items, in Thailand. He said a “scientist insisted that the claim is impossible” and fishball producers “insisted that snake meat can't pass through the machine.” He added the photos used in the claim are “not related to meatball producing, it's from (the) leather industry.”

The packaging of kikiam, fishball, and chickenball products in the Philippine market indicate they are mainly made of chicken, fish and squid meat.

However, researchers from Ateneo De Manila University and the National Fisheries and Research Development Institute (NFRDI) found out that seafood products by unknown companies sold through street vendors and commercial stalls and in supermarkets “were found to have pig and chicken meat.” It said that half of the sample products it studied have “compromised content” and found to contain meat sources “other than 100% fish meat as marketed.” They recommended that local regulatory agencies use DNA barcoding to determine the “authenticity” of commercially sold food products.


Sources

Facebook post, Alam Niyo ba na ang kinakain niyong Fishball…, July 8, 2019

Email correspondence with Food and Drugs Administration, Sept. 19, 2019

Philippine Science Letters, Not fish in fish balls: fraud in some processed seafood products detected by using DNA barcoding, 2018

International Barcode of Life, DNA BARCODING

Thai media debunked snake meat in street foods

Reverse image search


(Editor's Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)

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