Drug in pigs exposes evils in supply chain

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 March, 2011, 12:00am

It's a criminal offence to use it in food, but Clenbuterol, known on the mainland simply as 'lean meat powder', keeps showing up.

In a country overwhelmed by fake and substandard products, World Consumer Rights Day was marked yesterday with an annual programme on China Central Television that showed the dangerous drug being added to pig feed at several farms in Henan .

And because of inspection loopholes, bribes allowed farmers to get approval papers - without any tests for Clenbuterol - and see their pigs go to market in Nanjing .

They were also sold to a branch of meat products giant Shuanghui in Jiyuan, indicating that processed meat products made with tainted meat could have gone on sale across the country.

Clenbuterol is a banned muscle-developing drug that some farmers feed to pigs to reduce body fat and give meat a pinker, fresher appearance. Eating tainted meat may cause dizziness, fatigue, palpitations and other medical conditions.

The continuing Clenbuterol scandal highlights persistent quality problems stemming from greed and lax regulation.

The farmers, fully aware it is banned, add the drug in secret and then buy provincial food safety certificates. They may also receive warnings ahead of supposedly surprise spot checks, the programme said.

'The county authorities notify us in advance when a provincial-level inspection team or one from another province comes,' one pig farmer told an undercover CCTV reporter. 'County level inspectors only ask us to submit pig urine. That's no problem at all.'

One inspector said his bureau turned a blind eye to the Clenbuterol problem, and the CCTV reporter showed how easy it was to get a quarantine inspection station in Qinyang to issue three important inspection papers without even looking at a pig.

'The so-called inspection is only going through a procedure,' a farmer said.

The truck crossed the provincial border into Jiangsu without any of the pigs on board being tested for Clenbuterol after the farmer paid 100 yuan (HK$118) rather than a 20-yuan inspection fee. Eventually, the pigs arrived at a slaughterhouse in Nanjing.

The show also exposed tyres with substandard rubber produced by Kumho Tires, a South Korean-based company with a factory in Tianjin, the No 1 domestic supplier to car manufacturers including Beijing Hyundai, Faw-Volkswagen, Faw Car, Citroen, Chevrolet of Shanghai GM and Peugeot.

The tyre manufacture overused substandard rubber to lower costs. The potential danger is that tyres might swell or even explode.

Another problem exposed involves car retailers who acquire bank mortgages by using car quality certificates as deposits without telling buyers, who then can't apply for number plates without the certificates.

The programme also showed that inflammable materials were used to cover buildings and recycled paper was made into napkins, a violation of regulations.

Many consumers raised product quality concerns yesterday.

The China Association for Quality Promotion, a watchdog established in 1997, said cars, mobile phones and online purchases topped the list of consumer complaints last year.

Toxic meat

A farmer said he sold pigs dosed with Clenbuterol

The farmer said he sold this number of pigs to meat producer Shuanghui without any tests being done on the animals: 3,000