Workers scatter sterilizing chemicals while burying pigs that had been fed with the banned additive clenbuterol in Qinyang city, Henan province, last week. Clenbuterol encourages the development of muscle and reduces fat in pigs, but is harmful to humans. [Photo / Xinhua]
BEIJING / GUANGZHOU - Supermarkets across the country were busy recalling meat products at the weekend and taking packages off the shelves as a result of the growing scandal in which a banned substance was found in pork produced by an affiliate of the country's largest meat processor.
Meat products branded as Shineway in English that were processed by the Henan-based Jiyuan Shuanghui Food Co Ltd were found last week to contain clenbuterol, a chemical that is hazardous to humans.
The producer is an affiliate of the market-leading Shuanghui Group.
In Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi province, as in much of the country, supermarkets took products produced by Jiyuan Shuanghui off the shelves at the weekend. Customers are also being called on to return affected products to the store. The recall work was likely to take three days, local media reported on Saturday.
Some 20 to 30 tons of meat products produced by the company had been selling in the city every month.
Major supermarkets in Beijing, such as Wu Mart and Ito Yokado, told China Daily on Sunday that they were not recalling any Shineway meat products because the packs on their shelves had been processed by other affiliates of Shuanghui and had all been tested as safe.
But in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, the Vanguard supermarket chain went one step further and withdrew all sausage marketed by Shuanghui despite the fact that none of it was made by the offending affiliate, Jiyuan Shuanghui.
The Trust-Mart supermarket chain in the city was still selling Shineway sausages on Sunday and said it had not been ordered to withdraw the item. Customers at the supermarket, however, said they would not buy the brand.
Major supermarket chains received a notice from the Shuanghui Group on Wednesday saying its cooked meat products sold in Guangzhou were safe.
The live pigs bought by Shuanghui in Guangdong were not sourced from Henan province, where the pigs fed with the illegal additive came from, said the industry and commerce administration of Guangzhou.
The ongoing recall began on Thursday when Shuanghui Group ordered its branches to recall all meat products processed by its Jiyuan affiliate.
"It (the recall) does not mean all products produced by Jiyuan Shuanghui are substandard. The move is being done to reassure the public," Du Junfu, Party chief of Shuanghui Group, was quoted as saying by Xinhua on Saturday.
By Saturday, more than 2,000 tons of meat products and 70 tons of fresh meat had been recalled, the company said.
But it did not revealed the total amount of the products that needed to be recalled.
The company suffered a major setback when China Central Television (CCTV) revealed on Tuesday that Jiyuan Shuanghui had purchased pigs that had been fed with the illegal additive clenbuterol. The feed additive causes the animals to develop more muscle and less fat and makes them more valuable. However, pigs fed with the additive produce pork that can be harmful to humans.
At the Jiyuan Shuanghui plant, bulk meat products bore seals impounding them and formerly busy workshops were deserted. Twenty pigs that had been slaughtered but that had not been processed were laying in the empty building, Xinhua reported on Saturday.
After the scandal broke on CCTV, the provincial authorities in Henan conducted urine tests on 1,512 pigs at nine pig farms. It said 158 pigs tested positive.
In addition, 271 kilograms of feed in the province that was found to contain the additive was destroyed on Saturday.
Three senior officials from the animal husbandry bureaus in the province were suspended from duty in the aftermath of the revelations, said Liu Xuezhou, chief of Henan department of health.
Another 27 officials in the province were in police custody or had been sacked or suspended, he said.