Contaminated meat: Hong Kong faces pork shortage after China bans livestock exports from Jiangxi

Traders confused and bracing for higher prices after government bans imports from area where 319 pigs were found to be contaminated with remnants of illegal food additives

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 August, 2016, 9:37pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 August, 2016, 9:01am

Local retailers are facing a pork shortfall after the Chinese government banned all livestock farms in Jiangxi from exporting pigs to Hong Kong.

The mainland China government issued the ban yesterday after Hong Kong’s Food and Environment Hygiene Department discovered 319 pigs with traces of Salbutamol and Clenbuterol – drugs commonly used to treat asthma, which also artificially enhance animal growth and leanness.

Despite authorities’ efforts to block the distribution of the tainted livestock, it was confirmed that 40 pigs had been sent to 27 retailers around the city including two Wellcome stores and three Kai Bo Food Supermarkets.

A spokesman for the department said 2200 kg of pork confiscated from importers and an additional 1300 kg turned in by wholesalers would be destroyed.

“The department was conducting a comprehensive review and investigation into the matter,” he said, adding that live pig supply from Guangdong and Hunan remained unaffected.

The spokesman failed to confirm if the tainted meat was still in the market and if any had been consumed.

With Jiangxi province farmers supplying about 20 per cent of Hong Kong’s daily pork intake, local markets are bound to suffer, according to importing agent Cheng Ka-shing of the Hong Kong Agriculture Special Zone Limited.

Cheng said he expected the price for pork to increased by at least 10 per cent per kilogram from Sunday.

The incident has left some retailers confused and others furious. One butcher said her shop was mistakenly listed as tainted.

“We are so confused and still wondering why our shop is on the list,” the owner, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “We have not imported any mainland pork at all.”

“I have tried to contact the government to clarify, but no one has answered my call. This will affect our reputation.”

Hui Wai-kin of the Pork Traders General Association of Hong Kong criticised the food safety authority for letting 40 of the tainted animals slip though into the market before safety test results had been returned.

“Why would the pork be released to the market for sale before seeing the test results on safety?” Hui said.

He added that both the government departments involved and the pork importing agents from mainland China should take responsibility for the matter.

Cardiologist Dr Tam Kin-ming warned that if people consumed a large amount of the tainted pork, people with heart disease could experience heart failure.

Healthy adults meanwhile, could experienced symptoms such as increased heart rate, dizziness, headaches, trembling and nervousness, which could last for a few hours.

Tam reminded the public to avoid consuming internal organs of the pig where the drugs were more likely to accumulate.