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August 13, 2009

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Pork-trace system widened for buyers

THE city's high-tech system that allows buyers of pork to trace their meat right back to its source will be expanded to cover all of Shanghai's 600 wet markets.

The city government announced the initiative yesterday in its continuing quest to reassure consumers about food safety.

The Shanghai Commerce Commission said it was expanding the source-tracing of pork that enabled both consumers and the quality watchdog to trace the meat back to its producer and monitor the whole process up to the product appearing on the shelves.

Detailed information on the city's pork production and supply chain will be included in the system, such as the place and time the pig is raised, where it is killed and when it is sent for public sale, according to Zhang Xinsheng, an official from the commission.

Pork in all local markets will be wrapped in an adhesive numbered tag. Buyers can access detailed information on each piece of pork by inserting the number on a special Website.

Shanghai consumes about 11 million pigs every year and about 70 percent of them come from other cities.

In recent years, cases of meat containing poisons were frequently exposed, causing public outcry.

In one case in 2008, six suspects were put under investigation for attempting to sell pork containing an additive that produces more lean meat but is harmful to humans. About 5,000 kilograms of poisonous pork was seized before it went to market.

Officials have reinforced surveillance by random checks on 5 percent of all pork on its arrival in the city.

The numbered system was introduced to some city markets in 2005 and also covers most supermarkets.

However, there are still many consumers who are unaware of the system or how it works.

"I have never heard of it but I think it's a really good idea," said Zhang Rui, a woman buying pork in a Tesco outlet.

The city will close two more pig-butchering facilities by the end of this year and strengthen regulations covering the remaining 15.

"The safety of pork is always a major concern," Zhang said.

"Every business involved in the network should be checked, and every piece of pork has to be accompanied by documentation so that we can track its progress."


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