Sun, Nov 04, 2007 - Page 5 News List

No special pigs for athletes: Beijing Olympics officials

AGENCIES , BEIJING

Beijing Olympics organizers denied for the first time that special pig-breeding centers have been set up in secret to ensure that pork supplied to international athletes will be safe to eat.

"This is totally untrue. Neither Olympic nor Beijing city authorities have ever requested the setting up of special pig-breeding centers for the Olympics," the organizers said in a statement posted on the 2008 Games official Web site.

The organizers said an unnamed company had promoted its pigs as being bred only for the Olympics to try and boost its image and sales.

"It is very wrong if they tried to say these things were done for the Olympics. They are manipulating people's feelings about the Games to improve their brand image," the statement said.

State media identified the firm as Qianxihe Food Group.

In August, a Qianxihe spokesman said they were breeding pigs using hormone-free food for Olympic athletes to avoid false-positive doping tests, and that they were being kept under strict quarantine in secret locations to avoid contamination.

Safety precautions were so stringent at the centers that pigs were individually cared for and taken out for two hours exercise every day, some reports said.

A Qianxihe official reached by telephone yesterday said they were meeting to discuss the issue.

"We are communicating with the Olympic organisers, and there's no outcome yet," said the official, who declined to be identified. "We don't know what the problem is."

The organizers' statement said steps to improve food safety were welcome, but denied that organizers had demanded that specially "pampered" Olympic pigs be put on the menu for athletes during the Games.

"Olympic food is part of the normal Beijing food supply," it said. "The existing system already guarantees food safety ... Not only is this satisfactory for our citizens, it is also okay for the use of athletes during the Games."

Even so, Olympic officials are taking no chances and have ordered stringent checks on produce destined for the Olympic village, home to about 10,500 athletes taking part in the Games.

Round-the-clock guards will be on duty in Olympic kitchens, food storage areas will be under video surveillance and food transport vehicles will be fitted with global positioning systems, the statement said.

White mice will also be used to test food to be eaten by the athletes.

The use of hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals to boost the growth of livestock and vegetables is common in China and experts have voiced fears that competitors could fall ill or fail doping tests during the Olympics if exposed to such produce.

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