Saturday, August 28, 2010

Meat Inspections for Sale

This brief report describes meat dealers in a rural town market getting pork carcasses stamped "inspected" after handing over 30 yuan (about $4). It is purportedly a sort of citizen's report from a middle school student in Henan Province's Xiping County but it could have been planted in the press by officials preparing to crack down on the meat industry.

The writer said he went to the town market early in the morning on the day before Spring Festival. He observed a young man stop his small truck outside a meat vendor's shop. The young man stamped two hog carcasses with a blue insignia saying "passed inspection", took 30 yuan from the meat vendor and moved on. The writer's suspicions were aroused by this "instant inspection" since the young man did not test or inspect the meat and he wore no uniform or official identification. The writer asked the meat vendor who the young man was, and the vendor replied that he was from the county animal inspection office.

The writer then followed the "inspector's" truck and saw the same procedures repeated: stamp the meat "inspected," issue a receipt and collect 30 yuan.

The writer asked a meat vendor, “Is that young man actually from the county city animal inspection office?”

He answered, “Oh, he often comes, everybody knows him.”

The writer probed further, “Why doesn’t he inspect the meat before stamping it?”

The reply: “It’s customary; for a small fee you don’t need inspection.”

The writer then asked, ”Was there inspection before?”

The vendor: “Very seldom saw any testing equipment.”

The writer says that in the past he was always confident in the meat he purchased if it had a stamp from the animal inspection department. But now he feels very afraid after seeing how the process works.

This may or may not have been written by a rural middle school student, but either way it probably does reflect the common practice of buying inspections and certifications.

In a series of postings in an online pork industry forum, a poster explained that the animal health inspection is only one of several stamps that can be applied to pig carcasses (others may declare the meat unsuitable for fresh consumption). A meat inspector posted a response describing the procedures, but another poster said there are lots of bad people who don't follow the rules. One poster declared that stamps declaring meat safe are just a way for the government to accumulate wealth. Another poster pointed out that you can't tell whether a pig has a disease by looking at it.

Products are faked and duplicated all the time in China. Why not rubber stamps and certificates? Is China now "paying the piper" (by sacrificing food and product safety, "tofu" construction, etc.) for years (centuries?) of tolerating fakes and forgeries?

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