High prices fuel illegal pork scam and prompts insurance scheme

CHINA - The markets watchdog of Shenzhen city, Guangdong Province has launched an investigation into a scandal that unlicensed and unhygienic pork isbeing supplied to local meat markets.
calendar icon 11 July 2007
clock icon 4 minute read

Officials are becoming very concerned that pork from sick and dying animals is being sold to the public. They have promised to take appropriate action to punish the vendors if the allegations are confirmed.

A spokesman for the Shenzhen industrial and commerce bureau confirmed that unlicensed pork would be destroyed and efforts to ensure food safety to local people would be increased. The scandal comes at a time when the retail price of Chinese pork is hitting record highs.

Newspaper reports from earlier this week suggest that about 260 live pigs, including ones that were sick and dying, had been butchered daily at three illegal slaughterhouses. The meat was then transported to the nearby Guohui farm products market, a large-scale wet market in the Nanshan district. Other sources said that the pigs had also been injected with about 20 kg of water to increase carcase weight measurements and so values.

Some illegal operators are estimated to be making about 1,200 yuan ($160) profit for every 50 kg pig they sell. The unlicensed butchers, were also said to be profiteering - reports suggest that they were earning more than 5,000 yuan a month, compared with the local average wage of about 3,000 yuan.

Safety questioned
A Guohui market's manager, Mr Liu, said that all the pork on sale at the site was from a government-authorized slaughterhouse, although receipts could only be found for 19 pigs. Some traders did admit that unlicensed meat had been sold on the premises. However, this had now been rectified and they were confident that vendors were complying with the law.

Shenzhen residents wre understandably anxious about the allegations. On customer said: "I buy pork from the market every day, but I have never doubted its quality until I read the newspapaer reports. How can the market's management be so irresponsible? How can they neglect the people's health?" she said.

The city's food safety system stipulates that all pork is quarantined before going on sale, and that all wet markets and supermarkets purchase their meat from approved slaughterhouses.

Insurance programme to curb problem

Tiawan's Council of Agriculture (COA) has now announced that it will expand the scope of a death insurance program for pigs in the autumn.

The programme has already proved effective in preventing unscrupulous farmers from selling meat from pigs that died from disease in 10 cities and counties, and the extension should help curb the problem of illegal meat sales nationally.

A COA spokesman said that except for the outlying islands of Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu, pig farmers in all 22 cities and counties in Taiwan proper will be told to use the insurance program, with the government paying 70 per cent of the premiums and the pig farmers paying the remaining 30 per cent.

The COA has also set a target of having 5.7 million head of pigs in the 22 cities and counties insured by the end of this year. Figures estimate that 3.15 million pigs in 10 cities and counties were insured against death last year, with policies renewed this year on 2.73 million head.

When buying an insurance policy, a pig farmer must insure all the pigs on his farm. When filing a claim for insurance payouts, he must take the dead pigs to a designated location as proof of his loss. The carcases will then be destroyed, said the council's spokesman.

The COA is confident that the expanded insurance program will effectively prevent the meat from sick or diseased animals from being sold illegally.

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