ZHENGZHOU - China's largest meat processor Shuanghui Group apologized Wednesday after an illegal additive was allegedly found in meat products in an affiliate of the company.
"Shuanghui Group would like to make an apology as Jiyuan Shuanghui, a subsidiary company of Shuanghui Group, was disclosed to have been involved in the Clenbuterol case," said a statement on its website released Wednesday noon.
Shares of Shenzhen-listed Henan Shuanghui Investment & Development Co Ltd under the group were suspended from being traded at 9:30 a.m. after China Central Television on Tuesday reported Jiyuan Shuanghui Food Co Ltd purchased pig fed containing Clenbuterol, according to the suspension notice.
Clenbuterol is a chemical that can be fed to pigs to prevent them from accumulating fat. It is banned as an additive in pig feed in China because it can end up in the flesh of pigs and is poisonous to humans if injected.
The group ordered Jiyuan Shuanghui to halt operations and sent a deputy general manager to the company to impose corrective measures, according to the statement.
The group also required all subsidiaries to strengthen management on purchases, production and sales to ensure product quality, it said.
The Ministry of Agriculture sent a team to Henan province on Tuesday to investigate, and the provincial government ordered 16 pig farms to halt pig and pork sales and sealed feedstuff suspected to contain the additive.
The group had 18 inspection procedures to ensure quality of its pork, said an executive with in the chairman office of the group, without explaining why the illegal additive failed to show up.
Shares of Shuanghui Development fell Tuesday by the 10-percent daily limit to 77.94 yuan. The suspension notice said trading of shares would resume after relevant facts were verified.
Shuanghui Group is headquartered in Henan's Luohe city with total assets of over 10 billion yuan ($1.52 billion). The group has factories in 12 provinces throughout China, producing cooked meat products such as sausage, and also has branches in Japan, Singapore, Philippines and the Republic of Korea, according to its website.
According Zheng Baoliang, a doctor in biology with Zhengzhou College of Animal Husbandry Engineering, human beings can suffer from nausea, headaches, limb tremors and even cancer after eating food containing Clenbuterol.
Li Changqing, general manager of Xinda Husbandry Company based in Henan, said the case would severely damage the whole industry.
"The Clenbuterol case would definitely affect consumers' confidence in purchasing meat products," Li said. "Corrective measures should be introduced immediately to avoid consequences like those that damaged the dairy industry following the melamine scandal."
In 2008, melamine-tainted milk powder killed at least six infants and sickened 300,000 children across the country, which led to consumers in China losing faith in the country's diary industry.
The Clenbuterol pork meat scandal has caused consumers all over China to express concern and disappointment in the processor giant.
"I always bought Shuanghui's ham sausages thinking the brand was the most reliable in China, but now, I don't know which brand I should trust," said a 28-year-old woman in Beijing.
"Maybe I should quit eating sausages," she said while shopping at a Walmart Supermarket.
Hu Qianru, a 26-year-old website editor in Guiyang, capital of southwest China's Guizhou Province, is worried she's a sausage fan but only had confidence in the Shuanghui brand.
"I heard small businesses use meat of dead pigs to make sausages, so I always choose the No 1 brand Shuanghui," said Hu. "I even don't know which brand is No 2."
"Although I'm a huge fan, I've decided not to buy sausages for the moment," she said.