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Who Let the Pigs Out?

Center for the Global Food Value Chain Blog

Earlier this year, the BBC news reported "China fishes 900 dead pigs out of Shanghai River." By March 27, 2013, the count had reached a whopping 16,000 carcasses! Like the news wasn’t bad enough, the report concluded by stating that the river was a major source of drinking water for Shanghai. 

Investigations into the mysterious appearance of the pigs in the river uncovered a possible link between prevalent animal husbandry practices in China (Jiaxing) and a thriving black market, trading in pork sourced from dead pigs. In 2012, China Central Television (CCTV) exposed how illegally sourced pigs have been making their way into Chinese markets for years. 

For a pig farmer in China, it made economic sense to sell a dead pig to a black market meat dealer rather than having to bare the disposal cost for the carcass in the manner specified by the Chinese government. The exposé on the illegal meat trade dampened the trade in dead pigs. Having no one to sell the carcasses to, it was probably easier for a farmer to dump the carcasses into the river. 

The last time the U.S imported pork from China was in 2008 (I was reassured by this news, but not for long.) The U.S imports food from across the globe. With increasing distance between the farm and the plate, the risk to food safety is magnified. Food safety is my business and issues such as these concerns me at a professional and personal level. Here are my own, overall concerns:

  • Not all consumers have the same degree of food safety awareness
  • Not all consumers have the means or access to safe food
  • Not all countries have the same degree of regulatory oversight and commitment to food safety as the U.S.
  • Not all vendors have the same commitment to food safety

The Food Safety Modernization Act is the U.S.’s proactive commitment to food safety. But, it’s overall success depends on the cooperation, participation and commitment to food safety from its global partners as well. Hopefully, sometime in the near future, we won’t have to worry about risk to food safety. But for now, we have a tough challenge ahead and I am glad to have a small role in working toward a new, food safe future!

References:
Rivers of blood: the dead pigs rotting in China's water supply 
China fishes over 2,000 dead pigs from Shanghai river 
Meat scandal unlikely to put off Chinese 
Hundreds of dead fish found rotting in Shanghai river 
Illegal Zhejiang pork already in food chain 
Chinese farm says it dumped dead pigs in river 
Closer look: How pig carcasses can become treasure instead of trash 
National Bureau of Statistics (China) 
USDA Foreign Agricultural Service 
16,000 dead pigs found in Chinese river, threatening Shanghai's water supply 
China river's dead pig toll passes 13,000 but officials say water quality is 'normal' 
Shanghai finds pig virus in local river as carcasses pile up

 

Debarati Bhattacharya
Manager, Business Risk, Food Safety
Deloitte & Touche LLP

 

 

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