Officials confirm new animal feed scare

SULFATE STIR::‘Next Magazine’ reported on suspicions that meat from animals given feed that contained industrial copper sulfate had already entered the market

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 - Page 1

The Council of Agriculture yesterday said prosecutors are investigating the alleged use of industrial copper sulfate in animal feed.

The council made the remarks in response to a report in yesterday’s edition of the Chinese-language Next Magazine, which said that three or four companies had bought industrial copper sulfate and it suspected that meat from animals that had been given feed containing the substance had already entered the market.

The magazine said the companies bought the substance from a Taoyuan County-based company called Amia Co (昶昕).

Commenting on the report, the council confirmed that it received a report on the incident from a member of the public in Taoyuan in December last year. Prosecutors are now investigating whether Amia Co violated the Feed Control Act (飼料管理法) and the Veterinary Drugs Control Act (動物用藥品管理法).

In a statement released yesterday, Amia said it did not sell industrial copper sulfate to feed companies or poultry farmers.

Yang Chen-chang (楊振昌), a toxicologist at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, was quoted by the Central News Agency as saying yesterday that copper sulfate can act as an antibacterial agent for animals and can aid their digestion. Yang added that the possibility of overdosing on the substance, which can cause anemia or damage the liver when taken in large amounts, is very low.

However, the accumulation of copper sulfate in chicken or pigs, and in the human body, is possible, he said.

Later yesterday, the council held an impromptu press conference to explain the discovery of industrial copper sulfate in animal feed.

Animal Industry Department Deputy Director Lee Chun-chin (李春進) said that, after getting the report from a civilian surnamed Chen (陳) on Dec. 1 last year, inspections by the council found that of the six companies that had bought industrial copper sulfate from Amia, one had sold the substance to four animal feed factories.

Andrew Wang (王忠恕), a section chief at the council’s Animal Industry Department, said based on the Feed Control Act, the council has reported one of the four companies to the Taipei City District Court for investigation and fined it NT$18,000.

The company’s feed had been found to contain copper sulfate exceeding standard limits, Wang said, adding that it also violated the law by only having a animal feed vendor registration certificate, but not a certificate to import or manufacture animal feed containing copper sulfate.

The council said since the investigations are ongoing, it would not release the name of the vendor.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Economics Committee yesterday at the legislature, Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) was questioned by lawmakers over a series of food safety issues, ranging from the reliability of the recently released report on whether the council was at fault for concealing avian influenza outbreaks, to the allegations concerning the use of copper sulfate in animal feed.

Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) and Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟) said a recording that alleged that Hsu Tien-lai (許天來), former head of the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, attempted to conceal an avian influenza outbreak in 2009, to which Chen Bao-ji said he would send the case to the Control Yuan for investigation.

The lawmakers said the public was losing confidence in the council’s abilities and its problem-solving skills in light of the recent string of issues concerning food safety.

Several legislators were not satisfied with the council’s crisis management skills, questioning why the council concealed information from the public and why it does not have a clear understanding of how much tainted animal feed may already be on the market.