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Tainted Pork Case 'an Isolated Incident'

by 5m Editor
31 March 2011, at 8:56am

CHINA - Sweeping spot-checks of thousands of pigs in Henan province found only a very small minority had been fed with the banned substance, clenbuterol.

The Ministry of Agriculture said on Tuesday that the test results suggested that a recent health scare involving tainted meat may have just been an isolated case.

The ministry posted an announcement on its official website, saying only 134 pigs out of 310,000 tested in the province were found to have been fed the illegal additive.

"The result shows that the case is an isolated incident caused by a few people who deliberately flouted the law," the announcement said.

A recent inspection report, issued by the ministry following tests of pigs and pork at major markets across the country found 99 per cent passed the test for clenbuterol during the first quarter of the year, which was the same rate as the previous three years.

Liu Mancang, vice-governor of Henan, said at a press conference on Wednesday that the provincial government had dispatched more than 210,000 law enforcement officials as part of the investigation into the health of local pigs.

The announcement came in response to public fears following a scandal that was exposed two weeks ago when the media reported that Jiyuan Shuanghui Food Co Ltd, an affiliate of the country's largest meat processor, the Shuanghui Group, had purchased pigs that had been fed with clenbuterol.

The additive causes pigs to develop muscle and burn fat but can cause health problems in humans who eat meat produced with the help of the substance.

Wan Long, board chairman of the group, admitted earlier this week that his company's image had been seriously damaged by the scandal but insisted that the case was an isolated one.

Earlier reports said the Shuanghui Group had a policy of only accepting live, lean pigs with a meat content of more than 70 per cent.

A spokesperson for the company told Guangzhou Daily on Tuesday that they had never called on farmers to only supply leaner pigs.

He said the company is doing all it can to exclude such pigs.

"The national regulation stipulates that the spot-check for clenbuterol must sample 10 per cent but we are now examining every pig, regardless of the cost," he said.

Clenbuterol has been banned in China since 2002.

In 2005, the State Food and Drug Administration issued a regulation stressing that organizations and individuals were strictly forbidden from producing or selling clenbuterol.

In 2008, a police investigation found people had illegally bought salbutamol, a chemical that is similar to clenbuterol, from India and were selling it in China.

The latest clenbuterol case was predated by one in 2009, when 70 clenbuterol-tainted samples were found in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province.

A livestock broker in Henan province, who asked to be nameless, disclosed to China Business News that some brokers sold clenbuterol to pig farmers for at least 5,000 yuan ($762) a kilogram. He said he promised the farmers who bought the drug from him he would buy their pigs.

In the week following the most recent scandal breaking, the cost of meat in some provinces and regions fell by 1 yuan per kg and the volume of sales dipped dramatically.

Many supermarkets called on their customers to return meat products produced by Shuanghui and consumers have said they are now more cautious when buying meat.

Liang Haoyi, a senior researcher at the China Animal Agriculture Association, said that the government should bring in more effective measures to prevent the supply of toxic additives.

Tian Chenghua, a professor of the Institute for Psychiatric Research at Peking University's No 6 Hospital, said the many successive scandals involving food safety in China have damaged consumer confidence.

"The public's distrust will fade away as time passes but the only way for the government to rebuild consumers' faith is by enhancing supervision and reducing the number of scandals," he said.

Further Reading

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