Shoppers steer clear of pork products

By Lincoln Tan

Health experts may have confirmed that swine flu viruses cannot be transmitted by eating pork or pork products, but some Asian supermarket shoppers remain concerned that Chinese pork luncheon meat sold here could still spread the virus.

Major Chinese meat processor China Yurun Food Group last week recalled and destroyed 100 boxes of luncheon meat, made from unspecified minced meat from a Chinese slaughterhouse, China's National Business Daily reported.

The meat was found to be contaminated with clenbuterol, a drug given to people to treat asthma and also commonly used to cut body fat, and the recall was unrelated to swine flu.

China may have nothing to do with the recent spread of swine flu, but the reputation of its poorly regulated and corruption-plagued food industry, and recent reports of people dying from consuming tainted products at home and contaminated products found overseas, including New Zealand, continue to hit the country's imports.

Grocery shopper Casey Scott said she knew the swine flu outbreak did not originate from China, but she was still being cautious and avoiding pork products from the country.

"Better to be safe than sorry," Mrs Scott said.

Another shopper avoiding Chinese pork products, housewife Amelia Wu, originally from Malaysia, said: "Health authorities have been wrong before and I am not taking chances."

Farmers in China have been known to feed pigs with clenbuterol to reduce fat, but it is banned as a food additive because it can be fatal to humans.

Xinhua news agency reported last month that nine people were arrested for selling pigs that were fed the chemical after 70 people fell ill, and one of the worst cases involving clenbuterol was in 2006 when 336 people in Shanghai were hospitalised after eating pig meat or organs contaminated with the drug.

Health experts say swine flu cannot be transmitted by food, but can be transmitted through the air or through direct contact with an infected subject, either a sick pig or infected human.

- NZ Herald

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