Chinese food safety again under global spotlight

Posted by Editorial on 24th February 2009

China is facing more scrutiny over the safety of its food after at least 70 people fell ill after eating pig organs contaminated with an illegal weight-loss feed additive.

The victims, from southern China’s Guangdong province, all suffered stomach aches and diarrhoea after eating the tainted pork in recent days with state media advising that three remain in hospital.

Investigations showed the suspect pork bought from local markets was contaminated with clenbuterol, a drug often given to people to treat asthma or to cut body fat. It is outlawed as it can prove fatal when consumed by humans.

In Shanghai, 336 people were hospitalised after eating pig meat or organs contaminated with the additive back in 2006 – one of the worst cases of clenbuterol contamination, according to the China Daily.

China has not been immune to food safety scandals over the years, with 13 babies dying after being fed milk powder with no nutritional value in 2003. Pet food, toothpaste and seafood exports came under scrutiny in 2007, their Food and Drugs Administration Director was sentenced to death for accepting bribes and there was a contamination scare in Japan linked to dumplings imported from China last year along with the widely-known case of melamine contamination in powdered milk – which led to over 300,000 infants falling ill.

Three people have been detained for raising and selling the contaminated pigs in the current case, the China Daily reported.