August 14, 2009

China's Shanghai expands pork-trace system for buyers

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


The city government announced the initiative Thursday (Aug 13) in its continuing quest to reassure consumers about food safety.


The Shanghai Commerce Commission said it was expanding the source-tracing of pork which would enable both consumers and the quality watchdog to trace the meat back to its producer and monitor the whole process up to the point when the product appears on the shelves.


The system will include detailed information on the city's pork production and supply chain, such as the place and time the pig is raised, where it is slaughtered and when it is sent for public sale, according to an official from the commission.


Pork in all local markets will be wrapped in an adhesive numbered tag and buyers can access the detailed information on each piece of pork by entering the number on a designated website.


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


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


In recent years, the city frequently encountered cases of contaminated meat, which caused 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 when consumed. Eventually, about 5,000 kilograms of poisonous pork were seized before they went to the market.


Officials have also reinforced surveillance by conducting random checks on five percent of all pork arrivals in the city.


Meanwhile, Shanghai will close two more pig-slaughtering facilities by the end of this year and strengthen the regulations covering the remaining 15.