The nation’s highest watchdog body yesterday censured two government agencies for failing to ensure that a local snack, pig blood cake (豬血糕), is produced under sanitary conditions.
The Control Yuan passed a motion moved by two of its members, Cheng Jen-hung (程仁宏) and Yang Mei-lin (楊美鈴), to censure the Council of Agriculture (COA) and the Department of Health (DOH).
NO STANDARD PROCEDURE
Cheng said the COA had failed to formulate a standard hygienic procedure for collecting pig’s blood, while the DOH had neglected to make it mandatory for pig blood cakes to be subject to health inspections.
According to Cheng, pig’s blood is collected at 45 of the 59 legal pig slaughterhouses in Taiwan for use in food.
“Because the COA has not stipulated a standard method for pig’s blood collection, there have been incidents of stool contamination of the blood during the collection process,” he said.
In response, a COA official said that a standard operating procedure for pig’s blood collection would be introduced at slaughterhouses starting next year.
Huang Kuo-ching (黃國青), deputy director of the COA’s Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, said the bureau would select several slaughterhouses to run a pilot project for blood collection, and if it proves feasible, all -slaughterhouses will be required to adopt the procedure.
The procedure will involve the use of a hollow knife to collect blood from sedated pigs and the blood will be collected in special bags to avoid contamination, he said.
Meanwhile, another problem is the storage of the blood once it has been collected, Cheng said.
Pig’s blood contains about 17 to 18 percent protein and it quickly decomposes at room temperature, he said. However, he said, according to COA statistics, 73.3 percent of the slaughterhouses in Taiwan store the blood in an environment warmer than 5oC.
“Neither the COA nor the DOH have kept track of where pig’s blood goes after leaving the slaughterhouses, let alone monitor the conditions under which pig blood cakes are made for sale at night markets and on the -Internet,” he said.
When asked whether pig blood cakes were being exported to the US, the two government agencies gave conflicting responses, he said.
The DOH’s reply was that no pig’s blood products had been exported to Europe or the US since an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Taiwan in 1997, while the COA said its data showed that 28,960kg of pig blood cake had been exported to the US between 2003 and 2006, Cheng said.
The issue of pig blood cakes first gained media attention earlier this year when a local newspaper reported that the US Department of Agriculture had banned the production and sale of the product throughout the US because it was being made in unsanitary conditions.
In Taiwan, pig blood cake is usually eaten as a steamed snack served on a wooden stick or cooked as a hot-pot ingredient.