An initial 40 pigs imported in shipments by Hong Kong from the mainland of China were slaughtered and distributed recently in local markets before preliminary urine tests discovered the pork contained residues of veterinary drugs not seen in the city since 2012. The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), a unit of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, followed up after the urine tests with Ng Fung Hong, who operates the Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse. hongkongmeatmarket_406x250The agency demanded that he, as the distributor of the affected pigs, provide a list of the retail outlets that received the pork, resulting in more than two dozen markets being ordered to stop selling the affected pork products. “Among a total of 319 pigs supplied from two Mainland farms, the preliminary test results of some of their urine samples were found to contain residues of beta-agonists, specifically Clenbuterol/Salbutamol,” a FEHD spokesman said. The first 40 affected pigs were distributed to the market. FEHD immediately followed up with Ng Fung Hong and, according to its information, the 40 pigs were distributed to 27 retail outlets. FEHD health inspectors have visited the retail outlets concerned to mark and seal the affected pigs. The spokesman noted that beta-agonists are synthetic substances which can increase muscle-to-fat ratio. They can also be used as a growth promoter to produce lean carcasses and therefore are commonly referred to as “lean meat agents.” Clenbuterol and Salbutamol, the two most common beta-agonists, are not allowed to be used in food animals in Hong Kong. People who have consumed meat, especially contaminated organ meat containing excessive amount of beta-agonist residues, may experience symptoms such as rapid heart rates, dizziness, headaches, tremors and nervousness. The symptoms will appear from 10 minutes to three hours after consumption of the contaminated food and usually will disappear within 24 hours. As a precaution, the spokesman urged the public to stop consuming the pork and organ meat bought from the affected retail outlets effective Aug. 5. FEHD said medical advice should be sought if the consumer feels sick after consumption. “The FEHD will conduct a comprehensive investigation into the case and review, including examining the entire testing and slaughtering procedures. The FEHD has also immediately strengthened its surveillance, including enhancing monitoring of food animals admitted to slaughterhouses and taking samples for testing,” the spokesman said. Retail outlets concerned were unaware of the problem when they sold the affected pigs. The FEHD says it will exercise stringent control to ensure all pork and offal sold at any retail outlets are fit for human consumption. According to the preliminary information, the two affected batches of pigs came from two registered mainland China farms. FEHD has informed the relevant mainland authorities for appropriate follow-up action. Around 1.6 million local and imported live pigs are slaughtered in Hong Kong annually. The last time that beta-agonist residue was detected in urine samples of live pigs was in 2012. If the final test results of the government laboratory confirmed that the affected pigs contain veterinary drug residues, all the affected pigs and meat which have been marked and sealed will be thrown away. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)