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Sedated pigs to be killed, violators punished: official

Update: October, 04/2017 - 08:53
After the discovery of thousands of pigs injected with sedatives in a large slaughterhouse complex in Củ Chi District, HCM City authorities have ordered the immediate killing of all injected animals. — Photo

HCM CITY — After the discovery of thousands of pigs injected with sedatives in a large slaughterhouse complex in Củ Chi District, HCM City authorities have ordered the immediate killing of all injected animals.

Early last week, as many as 3,750 pigs at the Xuyên Á (Trans-Asia) slaughterhouse complex were found to contain a high concentration of Axeprocemin (a type of sedative), up to 0.47-0.51mg per litre. They were also found with symptoms of foot-and-mouth disease.

Bạch Đức Lữu, director of the Animal Health Agency of zone six under the Animal Health Department, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that before being transported to the slaughterhouse, the pigs were free of disease, had their origin traced and had been quarantined.

However, at the slaughterhouse, where bacteria can develop in the narrow space and conditions are hot and humid, it takes only 2-3 days to develop symptoms of the disease.

Pigs kept for a long time in a slaughterhouse tend to get infected. The pigs were found to contain sedatives five days ago; so it was not surprising that they were infected with foot and mouth disease, he said on Monday.

On average, each day, the wholesale Hóc Môn Market in HCM City trades in over 5,000 pigs – mostly from the Xuyên Á slaughterhouse.

The city’s Department of Industry and Trade has been asked to keep both supply and prices of pork products stable while operations of the  Xuyên Á slaughter house are suspended.

Head of the inter-sectoral inspectorate under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Phạm Tiến Dũng said the police were investigating the case, and “any violation would be dealt with strictly.”

Of the 4,000 injected pigs, nearly half – including those suffering from foot-and-mouth disease – have been killed.

“It’s time to take a heavy-handed approach. The city has already issued regulations stating that any pig injected with sedatives will be killed. We’ll no longer wait for the drugs to wear off or be flushed out,” Dũng said, adding that this was eighth recorded instance of mass injections, and each of them has been on a larger scale than the previous one.

“The act is a flagrant contempt for the law, a total disregard for consumers’ health and lives,” Dũng said.

He also said the inspectorate has issued administrative fines of VNĐ430 million (US$18,920) on 13 of 21 husbandry households who operate slaughterhouses in the Xuyên Á complex for “colluding with pig traders who get the animals from farms.”

Phạm Khánh Phong Lan, head of HCM City Food Safety Management Board, conceded that the average fine of VNĐ 30-35 million ($1,320-$1,540) was a slap on the wrist, since in most cases, the contaminated pigs are returned to the slaughterhouse, waiting for the drugs to wear off before they can be slaughtered.

She agreed that killing all sedated pigs and making public the names of violating slaughterhouse operators were necessary deterrents.

The slaughterhouses have been suspended for three months, pending further investigation.

Regarding the responsibility of veterinary workers assigned to the Xuyên Á slaughterhouse complex, Dũng said the inspectorate asked the police to investigate all the workers.

The city veterinary department also demanded reports from 17 workers at the slaughterhouse complex.

If it is found that the workers colluded with the slaughterhouse operators, wilfully ignoring or assisting and abetting violations, they could face expulsion, Dũng said.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the pigs are sedated because it makes them less rowdy and restless during transportation. Meat injected with sedatives will also show “a healthy rosy pink,” even if the pig is ill, making it easy to dupe customers. The sedative residues can also have adverse impacts on consumers’ kidneys and nervous systems.

The practice of sedating the pigs before slaughter is not illegal by itself, since the use of sedatives like the Belgium-produced Combistress is allowed, but this has to be done at least 24 hours before slaughter.

However, in Việt Nam, pigs are often slaughtered just five to six hours after reaching the slaughterhouse, so sedating them within this time frame is illegal.

Some people have expressed concerns that the sedatives might be used to mask the use of banned substances aimed at increasing the proportion of lean meat, but veterinarian authorities have said no such substances were detected in the sedated pigs. — VNS


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