HA NOI — Livestock farmers are using feed with illegal additives that pose hazards to people's health, said Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat, noting that the problem was most widespread in the southern provinces.
According to the ministry's statistics, 43 per cent of urina samples taken from cattle farms and 26 per cent of meat samples from slaughterhouses in the southern region tested positive for Beta-agonist compounds which increase the rate of weight gain and lean muscle growth. These have been banned in Viet Nam since 2002.
The compounds increase the rate of gain by 20 per cent and help decrease production cost and improve profit margins for feedlot producers, said Luong Thanh Ha of Ha Noi Agriculture University. However, they do not disappear from meat products, even after cooking at high temperatures, and can affect human heart rates and mental status, Ha said.
A recent inspection of urine and meat samples from farms in the southern province of Dong Nai's Thong Nhat District all tested positive for these compounds, even after provincial police had seized 5kg of these compounds being transported.
Phat said the relevant authorities have begun focusing on cattle farms and slaughterhouses but have yet to take effective measures to prevent the use of dangerous feed additives and ensure the safety and hygiene conditions.
Nguyen Xuan Duong, deputy head of the ministry's Department of Livestock Production, said the prevalence of small-scale farms created difficulties in dectecting and punishing farmers who use illegal feed additives.
It was impossible to detect the feed additives in the urine and blood of cattle after a 7-10 day period even though the compounds continued to exist in the muscle tissues of cattle.
Inspectors were also struggling with how to deal with slaughterhouses since they are not the direct violators, simply processing contaminated meat, Duong said. However, he suggested that the meat be destroyed and higher fine levels imposed.
Current fines for those using illegal feed additives are between VND10-40 million (US$476-1,904), while producers of these additives face 3-5 years imprisonment.
Nguyen Chi Cong, chairman of Dong Nai Province's Livestock Production Association, said it was easy for slaughterhouses to detect by themselves which cattle have been fed with these additives, allowing them to promptly report the violators.
Meanwhile, Phat has ordered the livestock department to detect and punish the producers and importers of these feed additives. — VNS