Chickens fed mineral salts to boost weight
Market regulators found hundreds of chickens bound for market in Chongqing stuffed with high-density mineral salts, added to boost their weight and sale price.
More than 70 officers from the municipality's industrial and commercial bureau and public security bureau conducting spot checks at a highway toll gate intercepted two trucks on Sunday packed with nearly 1,000 chickens that had been fed with barium sulphate, China News Service reported.
Tang Chuan, the leader of the team, said the operation was sparked by a Chongqing resident who complained that the gullet of a chicken she bought was full of something she did not recognise.
Tang said the woman had been concerned about possible health risks from eating such a chicken.
He said they had subsequently collected chicken samples from a wet market and that laboratory tests by the municipal Inspection and Quarantine Bureau found that two thirds of their feed was barium sulphate.
The report cited an industry insider as saying that the aim of feeding each chicken approximately half a kilogram of barium sulphate was to sell them for more money as heavier birds.
The stallholders who had bought the chickens intercepted at the toll gate said they were purchased from Meitan and Fenggang counties in neighbouring Guizhou province, the report said.
Wu Tingmo, a 47-year-old poultry farmer who said he had been raising ducks and selling their eggs in Fenggang county for seven years, said yesterday that he had never heard of dirty tricks like that before.
'There are very few big chicken-raising farms in Fenggang,' Wu said. 'As far as I know, all of us feed our birds with corn, even before we sell them.'
Although barium is considered dangerously toxic and its soluble salts are moderately toxic to humans, barium sulphate is non-toxic due to its insolubility - with a melting point of 1,600 degrees Celsius.
Dr Lo Wing-lok, a Hong Kong-based infectious-disease specialist, said that as barium sulphate was difficult for human beings to absorb, the minerals consumed would undoubtedly be removed by the body sooner or later.
'From a medical perspective, they do almost no harm to humans,' he said.
However, barium sulphate could cause temporary side effects, including an allergic reaction, constipation, nausea, cramps, or joint and back pain.
More than 70 Chongqing officers intercepted two trucks after a complaint by a resident
They found this many chickens that had been fed barium sulphate to increase their weight: 1,000