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Water-pumped meat widely sold for two decades

MEAT injected with water is ruining people's health, and a lack of government oversight has allowed the practice to flourish for more than 20 years, a Chinese political adviser has charged.

Feng Ping, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and an expert from the China Meat Research Center, proposed the establishment of a new monitoring system to safeguard meat production, Nanfang Weekly reported yesterday. Feng's proposal was submitted to the annual session of the CPPCC, which wrapped up yesterday.

The injection of water into livestock to increase its sales weight has become a widespread practice across the country, the newspaper reported. It is even more harmful than Clenbuterol, a substance used to increase lean meat production, which sickened 70 people in Guangzhou in February, the report said.

Meat processors who add water to raise the weight of livestock might also add antiseptics and other chemicals, and watered meat is more prone to spoilage and the spread of disease, the report said. And some of the added water may even contain industrial waste.

Meat free-for-all

Consumers have been subjected to watered meat for at least 24 years since Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province, abolished a government monopoly for pig purchases and marketing in 1985 and opened the sector to other enterprises.

More than 2,000 slaughterhouses sprung into business in Guangzhou, and many of them began to inject water into the stomachs of pigs and cattle waiting for slaughter.

Shortly after the market change in Guangzhou, other cities around the country also opened their pig markets, but regulations on the trade have been plagued with loopholes. Watered meat became widely sold nationwide, the report said.

Investigative journalists discovered slaughterhouses practicing live water injection in Guangzhou and Tianjin of north China in January.

Feng received reports that all 48 slaughterhouses in the suburbs of one northeastern city injected water into livestock. The city was not identified.

Trouble spreads

According to a January 12 report in the Chongqing Evening News, almost all the beef in the municipality had been watered. Feng said a village offered 1,500 water-weighted cattle to major cities in northern China, such as Taiyuan and Xi'an.

A routine check by the business watchdog in December in Ningbo in east China's Zhejiang Province discovered that more than half of the meat sold in supermarkets was watered.

The water that many slaughterhouses used for the injection contained industrial waste or sewage, presenting high risks to human health.

In addition, illegal slaughterhouses added chemicals to the water to enhance weight gain. They used atropine to expand blood vessels so that more water could be injected.

Watered meat fell through a regulatory loophole, according to media reports. Inspectors dispatched by agricultural and quarantine authorities to slaughterhouses were never asked to check meat for water injection.

Three government departments oversee different chains of the industry while in countries such as the United States and Japan one agency takes responsibility for everything. Feng suggested the establishment of a state administration to oversee each step of the slaughtering and sales process and also limit the number of slaughterhouses.


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