Police in some southern provinces have launched investigations into local pig farms following allegations that they overused an animal feed additive to produce more lean meat, posing health threats to consumers.
Tuoi Tre newspaper reported on Thursday that the police departments of Tien Giang and Dong Nai provinces made the move after more pork samples taken from local farms were found with dangerously high amounts of salbutamol, up to 600 times above the permitted level.
The two provinces both have a big hog farming industry.
In Tien Giang, 32 of 50 samples recently taken from 12 big farms were tainted, according to the news report.
So far only one farm owner admitted to drug overuse, while others blamed it on the feeds, it said.
Speaking to the newspaper, Pham Van Chien, chief agriculture inspector in Tien Giang, said the use of salbutamol among local farms is at an “alarming” level.
In Dong Nai, half of six newly inspected pig farms were found excessively using salbutamol, the contents of which were as much as 556 times higher than the legal limit.
The farms, which raise nearly 800 pigs in total, were suspected of buying pigs of around 80-100 kilograms and then feeding them with the additive within 7-20 days.
When their weights reach 130 kilograms each, the pigs would be sold, mainly to Ho Chi Minh City, Tuoi Tre said.
Meanwhile, the department of animal health in Ho Chi Minh City sent a letter to its Dong Nai counterpart, asking it to curb the abuse of salbutamol in hog farming.
The department said over the past week, nearly 290 pigs brought into the city from Dong Nai were found with high levels of the drug.
At a meeting last week, inspectors with the agriculture ministry announced that they found 31 out of 227 pig urine samples taken from farms in Dong Nai, Tien Giang, and Long An provinces having either higher than allowed content of salbutamol or illegal drugs.
Local media first reported about the illegal use of additives to reduce fat and increase meat in pigs in 2012. Though the practice was supposedly curbed by authorities, reports about it continued to crop up occasionally.
International studies have found that excessive salbutamol can leave residues in a pig’s edible tissues, including its liver and kidney, which cannot be removed by cooking.
When consumed, it can cause a rapid heart rate, dizziness, headache, anxiety, tremors, and blood pressure, especially in those with heart diseases and hypertension.