Mon, Mar 28, 2005 - Page 10 News List

COA uses new techniques to trace bad pork

MEAT MARKET The agriculture agency is teaming up with police and prosecutors to carry out inspections of alleged illegal slaughterhouses

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

To ensure the safety of the nation's meat supply, agricultural inspectors will work closely with police and prosecutors to conduct inspections this year, the Council of Agriculture (COA) said yesterday.

The comments came after a joint operation that exposed an illegal slaughterhouse in Yunlin County yesterday.

Chiang Yi-nan (江益男), director general of the Animal and Plant Inspection and Quarantine Bureau under COA, early yesterday morning went to inspect a suspected illegal slaughterhouse in Yunlin County, based on information supplied by local residents.

The facility's operators, however, refused to open their doors.

As the inspectors were accompanied by police and prosecutors, who have greater authority, the team was able to launch a raid on the slaughterhouse and discovered the carcasses of nine pigs that had died from disease, as well as 16 boxes of sliced meat weighing 940kg. Bureau inspectors immediately confiscated and destroyed both the carcasses and meat products.

Police also arrested a butcher surnamed Chen.

Prosecutors from the Yunlin District Prosecutors' Office (雲林地檢署) are now tracing the source of the pigs that had died from disease.

According to Lin Chin-chung (林進忠), head of the bureau's Meat Inspection Division, the bureau has focused on investigating the slaughter, butchering, processing, transporting and selling of meat or poultry that hasn't been inspected. However, in the past, local inspectors from the agriculture, environmental protection and health agencies were unable to enter suspected illegal slaughterhouses due to limits on their authority. Therefore, tracing the source of diseased pigs has been a challenge.

Lin said that since early this year, bureau inspectors have asked for support from police and prosecutors when carrying out field inspections.

"Incorporating assistance from the police and prosecutors has smoothed inspections because the presence of more powerful authorities makes it easier to trace the unsafe sources of pigs," Lin told the Taipei Times.

On average, Lin said, about 600 inspections of questionable slaughterhouses are carried out nationwide every year. This year, however, the number of inspection will be increased by one-third, to 800.

Fears over sales of questionable pork were sparked early this year, when reports were filed in 11 jurisdictions in central and southern Taiwan saying that meat made from pigs that had died from diseases had been sold to the public.

Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) demanded a thorough investigation into the situation, but instances of illegal meat sales continued to be reported in southern Taiwan.

Last week, police in Yunlin seized more than 1,000kg of meat processed from pigs that had died from disease.

According to statistics from the ROC Swine Association, Taiwan produces about 9 million pigs annually, and about 630,000 die of disease. However, the association's statistics show that only 560,000 are disposed of by incineration, in accordance with the Waste Disposal Act.

The figures imply that as many as 70,000 diseased pigs are transformed into 8.75 million kilograms of meat and placed on the market.

Bureau officials yesterday called on residents to cooperate in offering information on illegal slaughtering, and included a NT$500,000 reward for clues that lead to the discovery of illegal operations.

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