US lawmakers are concerned a Chinese company's planned US$4.7 billion acquisition of pork producer Smithfield Foods could affect the safety and availability of heparin, a blood-thinner widely used in heart surgery and kidney dialysis that is derived from pig intestines.
Members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce wrote to Smithfield on Wednesday asking the company to turn over information on its production of crude heparin. As well as being the world's largest pork producer, with more than 46,000 employees in 25 US states and four countries, Smithfield is also a major supplier of crude heparin.
In a letter to Smithfield's chief executive Larry Pope, six Republican committee members said the proposed acquisition of Smithfield by Shuanghui International Holdings "raises questions related to the safety and adequacy of the US heparin supply". The request comes just weeks after the Senate Agriculture Committee met to examine the potential food safety implications of the deal.
Smithfield and Shuanghui submitted their proposal in June to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
"The committee's investigation indicates that the US heparin supply is stressed, and could well be in shortage," the lawmakers' letter said. "China's heparin market is experiencing its own pressures, and Smithfield Foods under Shuanghui control may be pressured to export its crude heparin product to China instead of supplying US companies."
Nearly 150 people in the US died in 2007 and 2008, and hundreds suffered serious reactions, after they were treated with contaminated heparin. The US said the serious injuries and deaths were associated with the use of heparin that contained an "active pharmaceutical ingredient" from China.