The State Council's call for a thorough probe into the scandal of feeding pigs with banned substances on Monday will help re-establish the public's confidence in the government. The working group dispatched by the State Council was quoted as saying that anyone involved in the tainted pork will face severe penalties.
A ranking official of the Ministry of Agriculture said last week that the random testing of around 2 percent of 600 million pigs a year will certainly have loopholes, which seems to shift the responsibility from the food safety watchdogs to the system and pig raisers.
However, investigations show that it is not so much the random testing methods as a dereliction of duty on the part of related food safety departments that are to blame for the pork containing ractopamine and clenbuterol.
Why can't quarantine workers go to pig farms in a random way to check the pigs? Why do they have to wait for the pig urine sent by pig raisers? Why aren't pigs randomly checked immediately before they are butchered? What is both funny and sad is the fact that a local bureau of animal husbandry in Central China Henan province checked a problematic pig farm and 98.8 percent of the pigs tested were passed safe on March 15. But an investigation by reporters after the check found that the farm still feeds pigs clenbuterol, which was banned nine years ago.
The revelation that pigs are being fed growth hormones that are considered harmful to humans so the animals develop more muscle and less fat has shaken consumers' confidence in pork, just as the melamine scandal did with milk. Anyone involved, whether pig raisers or quarantine checkers, must be brought to justice.
In this case, it is apparent that food safety watchdogs, particularly those in charge of testing pigs at the grassroots level must be held accountable. Those in charge are also to blame for their dereliction of duty. The detaining of 37 suspects for possible criminal offense should never be the end of the scandal.
The general public wants to be told how problematic pigs can pass a series of tests before they are butchered and how the meat containing harmful substances can go through a series of tests and still end up in the mouths of consumers.
They also want to know whether the culprits, including pig raisers who have fed pigs harmful chemicals and those who took money to turn a blind eye to the problematic pigs and meat will get the punishments they deserve.
They should also be told whether a new and more comprehensive mechanism can be established to screen pork and ensure it is safe.
(China Daily 03/23/2011 page8)