Rubbish pork and rotten enforcementStanley Koh | June 3, 2011
The recent revelation about “rubbish pork” being sold on the market was a grim reminder of how often unscrupulous business practices go unnoticed by Malaysian authorities.
Through the years, there have been several shocking disclosures raising concern about the efficiency and effectiveness of enforcement agencies as protectors of food safety and public health.
Apparently, the practice of using low quality pork – or even pig carrion – in sausages, dim sum and other pork-based foods has been going on for 10 years. Why did it go undetected for so long by any of the various levels of the authority responsible for food safety? Is the government adequately taking care of public health?
Food safety in the country is administered by a network of federal, state, district and municipal authorities. The top authority is the Food Quality Control Unit of the Health Ministry. It was established in 1974 and is responsible for overall technical supervision. It determines food safety policies, formulates legislation, guidelines and codes of practice and coordinates activities at state and district levels.
One wonders whether the unit, as well as the state, district and local authorities, have adequate financial and manpower resources to function effectively, considering that food production has grown rapidly over the years.
Is there anything besides rubbish pork that we should be worried about? Are there other dark secrets yet to be exposed?
Perhaps we should review the Malaysian track record.
Quite some time ago, Chinese guilds and associations raised concerns about the unscrupulous use of prohibited drugs and hazardous chemicals in animal feeds, vegetables and fruits.
More recently, we heard complaints that some animal feed suppliers and livestock farmers had resorted to using various types of stimulants to accelerate the growth of livestock or plants so that they could reap in big profits, never mind the risk to public health.
In 1996, the public was shocked by reports that some poultry farmers were administering the cancer-causing antibiotic Nitrofuran to their chickens. According to one of these reports, a government laboratory tested 142 chickens and found that more than half showed contamination of up to 4,000%.
In August 1996, poultry farmers nationwide pledged not to administer Nitrofuran to chickens younger than 28 days. But a few days later, the government decided to ban the antibiotic altogether. Read more.