Police requested to probe trading in lean-meat agents

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has called for a police probe into the trade and use of the banned substances to save honest breeders from losses after many pork samples were found containing lean-meat agents.

The call was made by Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Diep Kinh Tan and other officials at the March 27 meeting of the National Steering Board for Cattle and Poultry Epidemic Prevention and Control.

Banned lean-meat agents such as salbutamol, chlenbutarol, and ractobamine have recently been found in pork samples in Dong Nai and some other localities around Ho Chi Minh City, raising concerns among consumers, Hoang Van Nam, head of the Veterinary Department, said.

These substances belong to the group of beta-agonists, which stimulate growth and quickly develop lean meat in cattle, but have been banned since 2002 in Vietnam due to their harmful effects on human health.

The discovery of banned substances in pork have caused many breeding farms, especially pig farms, to suffer losses due to a decline in pork prices on the market.

Currently, the price of live pork in HCMC and its surrounding areas has dropped by VND10,000 (US$ 0.48) per kg to VND40,000 per kg, and at such a price breeders will suffer a loss of VND5,000 per kg, Nam said.

But more worryingly, consumers have tended to opt to use other food instead of pork, and if this trend is prolonged, many pig breeders may have to shut down their business, he warned.

The ministry has set up inspection teams and coordinated with many local authorities to take samples and conduct tests to confirm the locations of pigs that have been fed with banned substances, and in what levels.

Currently, test results in Dong Nai Province have shown that 3 percent of the pork samples taken randomly on the market contained the banned substances, Nam said.

Meanwhile, the provincial Veterinary Sub-department reported that from March 20-24, it took 66 samples of pork, pig urine and feed for testing according to the qualitative analysis method. The test results showed that 15 of the samples contained banned agents.

However, the sub-department will put the 15 samples to a quantitative analysis test before it comes to a final conclusion about whether they have been contaminated with lean-meat agents, Tran Van Quang, head of the agency, said.

He also recommended that authorities require breeders, feed traders and slaughterers to make written commitments stating that they will not use banned substances.