FUZHOU - A recent high-profile food safety case related to meat products in Nanjing county, Zhangzhou, Fujian province has suggested the existence of loopholes in the rural area's food safety supervision, local officials said.
Three suspects have been arrested for allegedly selling about 40 metric tons of meat from sick or dead pigs for human consumption.
Two of the suspects, Lin Yuhong and Wu Jinrong, both of whom are farmers in Nanjing county, were hired by a local township government to collect sick and dead pigs and dispose of them in an environmentally friendly manner.
According to the Zhangzhou public security bureau's branch office in the Taiwanese Investment Zone, which is in charge of the case, the pair had sold meat from the sick and dead pigs since 2003.
The duo collected diseased or dead pigs that local residents discarded and bought them from local farmers. They also built a freezer that could store up to 6 tons of pork and hired three butchers and sold the meat in standard 20-kg packages.
Xiao Zhiwei deputy head of Jingcheng town of Nanjing county, a major pig breeding and farming area of Fujian province, said the town features household pig farming that sees the birth of 200,000 pigs annually.
Every village in the town has set up a specific pool to dispose of dead pigs using bio-safety techniques, but most pools are in remote areas and usually there isn't anyone taking care of them, Xiao said.
"So it is still common that people just discard the dead and sick pigs randomly," Xiao said.
The data from the Nanjing agriculture bureau showed the number of sick and dead pigs annually is up to 19,000. Spring and autumn are the two high seasons when hogs are diseased and die.
Yang Zhizhong, head of the Nanjing agriculture bureau said the bureau had no clue of the manufacturing and selling of tainted meat products until the case surfaced recently.
Currently, the two veterinarians in the town's veterinary medical centre are responsible for the registration of the dead and sick pigs, but it's impossible for them to follow every incident, Yang said.
The website xinhuanet.com reported that after the case was exposed, Zhangzhou city government launched a campaign to check and update the figure of sick and dead pigs in every county.
As of May 2, Nanjing county had dispatched 787 people, checking 18 freezers and disposing of 2,900 sick and dead pigs.
Government departments of agriculture, animal husbandry, quality supervision and industry and commerce administration should collaborate with each other to establish a mechanism to avoid loopholes in food safety supervision, especially in rural areas, xinhuanet.com quoted a source in Zhangzhou food safety office as saying.
The Zhangzhou case has been listed as one of the top 10 food safety cases related to meat product by the Ministry of Public Security.
Two swine diseases, which are highly contagious and fatal to the animals, were tested positive during a test conducted by the local animal disease control and prevention centre.
An earlier rumour said that the pork has entered the market of Fujian's neighbouring province of Jiangxi, but the Fuzhou-based newspaper the Strait News quoted a source with the Fujian provincial public security department as saying that such an allegation has no factual basis.
Some details, including the exact destinations the tainted pork has gone to and whether there is a mastermind behind the case, are still under investigation.