Chinese abattoirs closed due to food safety fears

By Mark Godfrey

- Last updated on GMT

Chinese abattoirs closed due to food safety fears

Related tags: Livestock

Worries about food safety and meat traceability have prompted authorities in a key meat production region in eastern China to shut 26 slaughtering facilities, but further issues have arisen about on-site slaughter by restaurateurs – ironically to reassure customers on food safety.

The local government’s Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Bureau published a list of the 26 shut companies after a lengthy crackdown and investigation in the city of Jinan in Shandong province.

The closure of 26 slaughterhouses was done under the provincial Pig Slaughter Management Regulations and follows inspections lasting almost a year. Two lists were published: one of ten companies that met the official slaughtering standards as well as 26 firms that didn’t.

The ten firms, which include leading local processor Jinan Jia De Mei Shi Co and Jinan Wan Run Meat Processing Co (part of the large Yurun meat processing group) will get certificates from the local government stating they met “standardisation requirements”​, clearly a boost for business given the list is being circulated through all government-controlled media. 

The 26 Jinan slaughterhouses being shut have been closed for not keeping clear records on pigs slaughtered, including owner and ear tag details, as well as records of any antibiotics or enhancers like clenbuterol, according to a document from the local Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Bureau – part of the national ministry of agriculture).

The firms listed appear to include several “designated”​ slaughterhouses attached to smaller food firms in outlying districts of the city – the Licheng District Tang Wang Food Co Designated Slaughterhouse is one of four in the same district closed. Aside from records, inspectors also checked for waste management practices and sanitary conditions at the slaughterhouses, according to the Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Bureau.

However, the closures appear to have opened up a can of worms concerning slaughtering practices in the city related to food safety, putting pressure to act on the national food safety enforcer, the China Food & Drug Administration (CFDA). Numerous unofficial slaughterhouses appeared to be attached to popular barbecue and hot pot restaurants in the city and some of the owners have been telling local media that they were killing on-site to satisfy customers’ concerns over the legitimacy of lamb.

Photos in the popular QiLu Evening News​ (daily newspaper covering Shandong province) showed lamb carcases hung outside restaurants with their tails and legs still on.

This, according to several restaurateurs interviewed by the paper, was done to show the customers that the meat was, in fact, lamb: there has been a spate of cases involving the use of lamb fat to create “fake lamb”​ out of pork carcases – a cheaper meat – according to the QiLu Evening News​.

Clamping down on “fake lamb”​ is a CFDA priority, according to a statement from the agency, which also said it wanted to target the use of “meat from sick animals”​ as well as meat from “unclear sources”​.

Smuggled imported meat also appeared to be in the CFDA’s sights: the agency has required all inspected slaughterhouses to produce certification of Imported Goods Quarantine Inspection, as well as certifications for Animal Quarantine Conformity for animals slaughtered.

What has not been clear is whether the CFDA and the Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Bureau have been conducting the inspections of slaughterhouses together and, if so, which has been the lead agency.

Local media, meanwhile, look set to run with the issue, which has been one of the easier issues to target for China’s heavily censored reporters. Shandong TV has been running extensive coverage this week on restaurant slaughterhouses

Related topics: Safety & Legislation, China, Lamb, Pork

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