Friday, 19 August 2016

Tainted Pork Raises Food Safety Questions

All lined up -- pork ready to be sold in markets and supermarkets
Earlier this month, we discovered there are still some loopholes in our quality control when it comes to inspecting pigs from China that come to Hong Kong to be slaughtered.

What typically happens is that when they pigs arrive in the city, they are tested to ensure they are safe for consumption, and once they have the green light, the animals are slaughtered and distributed, and then sold in wet markets and supermarkets.

However, this time, the pigs from Jiangxi province were tested, but before the results were confirmed, they were already slaughtered and the pork was distributed into the food chain.

Tainted pork earlier this month caused food safety fears
This caused not only a lot of fear regarding food safety in Hong Kong, but also led to financial losses for wholesalers and sellers who were mistakenly accused of selling tainted pork.

Today the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man apologized for the blunder, saying the tainted pork scandal was "entirely the government's fault", and police would investigate possible sabotage involved.

While farmers in the mainland are known to illegally use asthma medicine to enhance animal growth and leaness, this time around 300 pics were "drugged" with an unusually high level of illegal chemicals on their way to Hong Kong, rather than from the farms they came from.

"This might not be a simple food safety incident," Ko said. "It was unusual for farmers to use such a high level of food additives in pigs before the livestock were subjected to food safety tests.

"Even if they use illegal enhancers, they usually stop for a certain period before the pigs are sent to the slaughterhouse," he said.

Dr Ko Wing-man apologized for the tainted pork scandal
Wouldn't one be concerned to know farmers use these illegal enhancers anyway? Why doesn't Hong Kong refuse to accept any pigs that have been treated this way?

In fact why not encourage animal husbandry in Hong Kong again so we can ensure we are getting clean pork? Why are we depending on China for our supply? Why can't we have our own?

The Hong Kong government does little to encourage locals to take up farming, once a livelihood of previous generations. While it is admittedly hard work, there are some people who are keen to do this because of the benefits of eating organic, or at least food that is cleaner.

We have some organic farming happening, but on a vary small scale, and they aren't properly regulated. Chefs are keen to use local produce to lower their restaurants' carbon footprints, but these farms just don't produce enough volume.

There is potential there, so why can't the government support these farmers?

This dependence on China for our food and water is too much; and it's scary too. Ko's comment about farmers using illegal chemicals in our food is an everyday occurrence is shocking. And his lack of interest in encouraging locally-produced food is very telling.

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