Illegal Zhejiang pork already in food chain

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 March, 2013, 7:06pm
UPDATED : Monday, 25 March, 2013, 11:59pm

Just when the scandal surrounding the dumping of dead pigs into a primary drinking water source seemed to be drawing to a close, state-run television station has revealed that illegally processed pigs have been making their way to dining tables for years.

Illegal dealers in Zhejiang’s Jiaxing city had purchased dead pigs from breeders and resold them to markets for years, Chinese Central Television’s News Investigation programme reported on Saturday.

Breeders are required by law to send dead animals that have died of disease or from natural causes to undergo “non-hazardous treatment”, and they are prohibited from selling them to butchers.

Pan Huimin, Jiaxing resident who remains under custody for suspicion of dealing in dead pigs, told CCTV that there was “100 per cent” correlation between his arrest and the dead pigs dumping incident. Local farmers dumped dead pigs in rivers “because nobody buys [them] anymore,” Pan said.

Illegal dealers like Pan bought dead pigs, which account for as much as 10 per cent of the total number of pigs, and processed them into different meat products, which were resold on the black market, CCTV said.

Dead pigs became a hot topic in China and generated world-wide attention after more than 16,000 of them were found floating in a river flowing through Shanghai earlier this month, sparking concerns over the safety of the region’s drinking water and public anger toward the government’s handling of the issue.

Authorities repeatedly stressed that the pigs had not died of disease and that the drinking water remained safe. The public and media maintained that Jiaxing, one of the country’s largest pig breeding bases, was the source of all the pigs even though officials disputed this claim admitting that only some of the pigs came from Jiaxing.

Pan told CCTV that his illegal business was well-known in the region. Local pig breeders would call illegal dealers to take away dead hogs before asking officials to collect them for “non-hazardous treatment”, he said. “I managed [to get rid of the dead pigs] for them while they benefited financially too.”

Another arrested illicit butcher Ma Huihua said he purchased more than a dozen dead pigs every day and paid as much as 50 yuan (HK$62.5) for each one, the programme reported.

Jiaxing authorities have uncovered several cases involving dead pig transactions over the past year. The offenders were reported to have made profits of 8.65 million yuan from processing more than 77,000 dead pigs, CCTV said.

Last November, Jiaxing court sentenced three dead pig butchers to life imprisonment for their crimes.

In a separate incident, over a thousand dead ducks were reportedly found last Tuesday in a river in Pengsha county in Sichuan province. Officials said they had collected and treated all carcasses, and were investigating where they had come from.