Pork is a popular dish in China. With attractive spices laced throughout, it is perfectly grilled and sold for $20. Everyone enjoys eating such dishes. However, the pork may have come from diseased pigs, even pigs long dead from disease.
Let’s watch the video below together. <footage 1 0:34-0:44>
Some facts about diseased pigs sold as food
According to Q&A platform Zhihu, in 2015, Shatin slaughterhouse sold 110,000 pounds of sick and already dead pork in 18 months. The same year, Yulin police seized 20 tons of expired, smelly, unlicensed meat.
How does China turn diseased dead pigs into edible pork on the table?
In her 2013 article for Foreign Policy today, Laurie Garrett, a columnist at Foreign Policy, said, [quote] “Chinese authorities seized manufactured pork buns that were found to be made from Zhejiang pigs that had died of the mysterious ailment.” [end quote]
Surprising investigation on a factory
The People’s Daily cites a reporter’s investigation. He received a report from a citizen that someone was suspected of trading stinky pork on Shenning 2nd Road, Chancheng District, Foshan City in 2013. It was suspected to have entered the market illegally.
A meat processing factory in Luo Village, Foshan, had an extremely poor processing environment. Pork fat from the factory was primarily sold to a preserved meat processing factory in Huangpu Town, Zhongshan City.
The reporter visited Shenning Road several times and discovered two vans full of stinky pork rinds, pork legs, and other meat products.
The van driver unloads the pork and weighs the transaction on the spot. A large amount of pork is piled up on the ground, emitting strong odors. Flies are swarming all over the pork.
One van takes the meat products away after the transaction, while the other van returns to the processing plant. After following the van that returned to the factory, the reporter saw hundreds of tons of fat and fat meat being processed in two 2000 sq. ft. workshops.
A staff member used a kitchen knife to cut pig skins and fat in the center of a factory building. Some of the pig skins were already black. Inside the other factory building, there are two 540 sq.ft. freezers.
Masquerading as a buyer, the reporter spoke with the female boss. She said that many businesses came and inquired about meat supplies. The skin was typically used to produce industrial gelatin, whereas the fat was used to produce sausages and bacon.
The reporter accompanied the Nanhai District Municipal Supervision Bureau, the Food Safety Office, and the Industry and Commerce Bureau on a surprise inspection of the factory on September 2, 2013.
It turns out, the company bought mainly fatty meat and pig skins that people didn’t want to buy from Zhongnan Wholesale Market in Foshan City and the wholesale market in Dali.
Foshan City is a case study of the suppliers’ process. What about the production process?
Decomposing meat enters the market then ends up on dining tables?
Some other investigations from roughly 20 years ago could be found on the internet.
Sohu cited state-owned media outlet CCTV in 2004. An investigation into the ‘little meat,’ a term to describe actually sick and dead pork of unknown origin, was conducted by another reporter in 2004.
In order to find out the origin of the sick and dead pork, the reporter went to a den in Shangcang Town where pig dealers hid sick and dead pork. He spoke to a pig dealer and followed him to Tianjin Jinfu Food Factory near the Tianjin Outer Ring Road.
According to the factory manager, most of the sick and dead pork used in the factory was delivered to the door by these pig dealers. Their factory produced various ham, sausage and other products for several years. They had all the licenses and the products were very popular.
This is a part of the conversation between the reporter and the factory manager.
Reporter: Did you complete all the procedures?
Factory Manager: All, all three certificates are complete.
Reporter: What is your annual output?
Director: (one year) more than 100 tons.
Reporter: Where is the best city to sell?
Director: Baotou, Zhangjiakou, and Langfang are three big markets.
Reporter: Are there any in Tianjin?
Director: Tianjin has it! We have more than 40 supermarkets in Tianjin. We went to Beijing in 1997 when we built our factory. Well, our ham sells for $1.78, and local things in Beijing can be sold at high prices!
In addition, the reporter found another company called Tianjin Shiyiyuan Food in the area.
He saw some sick and dead pork soaking in bloody water. Some of the pork was piled in baskets and mixed with various seasonings for processing. The semi-finished products were then baked.
This is the conversation between them.
Reporter: What unit is it usually delivered to?
Person in charge: This line around Beijing is Miyun, Huairou, Shunyi, Pinggu, Tongxian and Sanhe.
This company labelled sausage and smoked ham products as checked and qualified.
The reporter visited the Shimen Wholesale Market in Beijing’s Shunyi district. He noticed that Tianjin Shiyiyuan Food’s barbecued pork sausage was prominently displayed on the shelf.
How many already dead pigs were processed?
Incomplete statistics in 2004 showed that over 4.4 million pounds of pork flowed into meat cases and food processing plants from this out-of-control market every year from a black market in Yaoqian Town, Sujiatun.
Later, 17 people were accused of selling more than 1,000 tons of dead pigs. They processed over 78,000 diseased dead pigs including slaughtered diseased pigs in 2012. The sales amounted to more than $1.18 million.
In this case, the slaughterhouse owner formed a team to participate in the production process who were all well paid (bribed).
On March 8, 2015, the Guangdong Provincial Consumer Council filed a civil public interest lawsuit on behalf of consumers. They requested the court to make the 20 suspects who sold the diseased and dead pork bear the compensation of about $1.5 million.
At least 132,200 pounds of sick and dead pork entered the market from this slaughterhouse alone.
Another case was found in Fujian province in 2011. Previously, they used live pigs, but the profit was not enough. Then they shifted to dead pigs. This is the conversation between the reporter and Chen Jinsun, the suspect.
The reporter: the profit is greater?
Chen Jinshun: Yes, a little more profit.
The suspect explained that he got the sick and dead pork for around $0.30 per pound, less than one-sixth of the normal price. Then, the profit added up to $0.15 per additional pound.
In this case, they sold dead pigs to other meat processing dens. Then, this kind of pork would be marinated, turned into sausages and sold to wholesalers or small vendors at the price of about $1.90 per pound. Or, they would go directly to consumers.
According to Sina News, the profit rate exceeded 100%.
Dead pigs are openly and easily traded in black markets
According to Sina News, sick and dead pigs were easily and openly traded in black markets.
In the investigation at Yaoqian Town, the reporter learned that animal inspection personnel were paid to not quarantine the animals.
At the dead pig trading scene, the reporter asked the traders if they were afraid of an investigation. The traders’ responses were surprising.
He said that as long as they had the money, they wouldn’t care. The sellers would pay the animal inspection personnel $0.30 for each dead pig. The reporter then observed the trade between business owners. He didn’t see the animal inspection staff check anything.
Without any conscience and receiving incentives, some staff sold tens of tons of dead pigs.
In Fujian province, two staff members were hired by the local town government. They were responsible for the pollution-free treatment of diseased and dead pork. However, these staff were reported to have purchased dead pigs and transported them to Hunan, Hubei, Guangdong and other places.
In just three months, the two sold nearly 40 tons of sick and dead pork, with a case value of more than $444,000.
While it is illegal for pig breeders in China to send pigs that die from disease or natural causes to butchers, many people continue to do so for profit.
Businesses profited from dead pig products: Case studies
In one case, the reporter learned that the Changping court made a first instance verdict on two groups of 57 people. They mixed qualified meat with unqualified meat to make meat cake, and delivered the products to street side restaurants or meat cake stores, and also sold it to residents.
There were other cases in 2018.
A court in Bobai, Yulin, Guangxi, concluded a case involving food safety issues. The nine men involved in the case were sentenced to prison. They produced and sold pig products that did not meet safety standards, with an unknown cause of death, or were frozen for sale.
On April 15, 2018, authorities seized around 38,000 pounds of illegally processed pig products, and arrested nine people, including the defendant named Guanmou.
In August 2018, nine suspects were arrested for acquiring a large number of sick and dead pigs, slaughtering them privately, then making salami and other products. The products were then delivered to Guangdong, Hubei, and other locations for sale for more than $1.33 million.
In November 2018, six suspects were arrested for purchasing 68.5 tons of live pigs, knowing that their origin, Liaoning Province was classified as an epidemic province for African swine fever.
Moreover, the six suspects mixed the qualified and unqualified products and issued the inspection and quarantine certificates that didn’t match the quality. Six batches of their products tested positive for African swine fever virus in nucleic acid testing.
According to Sohu, the mutual points between these cases lie in the behavior of the animal quarantine staff who issued false quarantine certificates for unqualified products from dead pigs.
Residents’ comments regarding the person in charge
According to the Ministry of Health, the number of cases infected with Streptococcus suis were reportedly surging in Sichuan. Patients had strange diseases. They developed high fever, fatigue, nausea, subcutaneous bruising, shock and other symptoms.
During investigations, the reporter found that farmers either did private slaughtering or sold dead pigs that died of diseases to illegal traders.
“No one used to be in charge, no matter if it was a sick pig or not, no one came to be in charge if there was no incident.” This is the comment from villagers in Sichuan province after a reporter asked about the local management of the pig trade.
For China, there should be a comprehensive set of supervision procedures in place for the collection and disposal of diseased and dead pigs. If the supervision is effective, it would be impossible for the suspect to buy and sell a large amount of diseased and dead pork, let alone build a freezer and transport it to foreign countries for sale.