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Officials probe sale of tonnes of infected pork. Photo: Reuters

Sale of 40 tonnes of diseased pork sparks police inquiry

Meat from diseased animals allegedly bought on farms, collected from roads, sold to restaurants

Two people hired by a county government in Fujian province to destroy pigs killed by infectious diseases have been detained for allegedly processing the carcasses and selling the meat in neighbouring provinces.

Police in Nanjing county, Zhangzhou, detained a 44-year-old woman surnamed Lin and a 33-year-old man, busting an illegal operation in which 40 tonnes of pork was allegedly sold in three months, according to the , a newspaper affiliated with the propaganda department in Fujian.

The report added that both suspects were hired by the county government to properly dispose of pigs killed by a viral disease called pseudorabies and by the highly infectious porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, also known as blue-ear pig disease.

Lin, the prime suspect, allegedly saw potential for profit and began buying dead pigs cheaply from local farmers at a price of 10 to 80 cents per half kilogram, as well as collecting dead pigs dumped on the sides of roads.

The business reportedly grew so big that they leased a refrigerated warehouse. In just three months they allegedly sold 40 tonnes of such meat to processing plants in Guangdong, Hunan and Jiangxi .

All the meat sold had probably already been consumed by customers in restaurants in the three provinces, the report said.

Police also found about 32 tonnes of pig carcasses in the warehouse and a truck. The duo allegedly hired three workers, who are now at large, to process and package the dead pigs.

The news sparked a public outcry among internet users, some of whom wrote that the culprits should be executed, while most others lamented that it was no longer safe to eat meat on the mainland.

Last week police said they had detained about 900 people during a three-month crackdown on illegal meat, including about 63 suspected of selling rat, fox and mink meat as lamb. Mainland media reported yesterday that thin slices of lamb served at hotpot restaurants were often mixed with meat from unknown sources and animals.

As public suspicion deepens, the official microblog account of national broadcaster China Central Television gave information yesterday on how to identify pork from sick pigs. The key factors were smell, the elasticity of the meat, and its external colour.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Officials probe sale of tonnes of infected pork