After a brief hiatus, illegal drugs are back in circulation on pig farms in southern provinces, the country’s main pork supplier, agriculture officials said Monday.
Pham Tien Dung, a senior inspector at the agriculture ministry, said inspections in the first half of the year found lots of banned drugs being used on swine farms.
He said of 227 pig urine samples taken, 31 were found to contain either excessive — 4-6.5 times higher than allowed — leanness-enhancing feed additive salbutamol or illegal drugs.
The tainted samples came from pigs raised in Dong Nai, Tien Giang, and Long An provinces.
Dung said his team would recommend criminal charges against people found using banned drugs in breeding animals or producing animal feed.
He said several farmers and traders, including those contracted by big meat companies like C.P. and Anco, injected their pigs with drugs five to 30 days before delivering them to boost their weight.
The official blamed the problem on the companies’ failure to monitor every stage of production, given that their supplies can be up to 14,000 pigs a month.
He added that the the lack of close coordination between state agencies and local governments allowed some farmers and traders to use the drugs.
The 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.