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Chinese pork safe for all, not only Olympic athletes
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Beijing's largest pork provider on Monday displayed to locals and the world alike that its meat was safe for all, not only Olympic athletes.


With more than 150 Chinese and foreign reporters watching from behind glass windows in a north Beijing suburb, workers decked out in blue robes and white rubber boots from Pengcheng Food Branch of Beijing Shunxin Agriculture Co. Ltd demonstrated the fine art of shaving and washing pig carcasses hung along an assembly line in a closed workshop.


"A pig has to go through 18 procedures before becoming packed pork to be sent to supermarkets," said Yang Wenke, general manager of Pengcheng, which provides more than 40 percent of Beijing's pork.


The abattoir, which kills 8,000 to 10,000 pigs daily, has 24 quarantine workers working each shift to ensure all its products are healthy and safe.


Each day, three percent of the animals slaughtered are sampled for drug residue and no big problems have been found in the past five years, Yang added.


The company has 186 farms around the country to raise pigs and even owns its feed plants so that it can control quality from the start.


Yang said great efforts were now being made to control the feeding procedure. "We spare no efforts to use quality feed and antibiotics in a safe way according to the relevant state rules."


But, as one of the candidates to supply pork for next year's Beijing Olympic Games, Pengcheng said it has neither made nor planned any special arrangement for the meat that Olympic athletes will eat


Monday's display for the media came on the back of claim made three months ago by rival pork producer Qianxihe Group that it was raising pigs destined especially for Olympic dining halls. The company said that it was feeding the animals organic feed and Chinese herbal medicine and was even putting them through two hours of daily exercise.


The news roused a public debate over a "double standard" in food quality.


The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) denied earlier this month that it had asked any supplier to produce any special pork for the sporting spectacular.


A BOCOG spokesman said the quality of pork sold in Beijing market was good and met the need of the Games. He declined to say when the tender for pork suppliers would be decided.


"All pork bought from regular sources is qualified and raised with safe feed. The state food regulators also inspect pork quality regularly," said Qiao Xiaoling, director of research and development for Beijing-based China Meat Research Center, "But it is understandable that organic pork is better."


"Such pork is available in Beijing markets. Anyone can buy it if they are willing to pay more. "


Quarantine watchdogs open to press


The large media group organized by the BOCOG on Monday visited not only pork and chicken producers but also the labs of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (GAQSIQ) and the Beijing Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau. They were able to talk with various scientists about how they test for chemicals, metals and microbes in food.


"I am not an expert to say whether Chinese foods are safe or not," said Marue Vlaskamp, a reporter from Dutch TV station RTL. "But as a journalist I am happy to attend today's event and hope to have more chances to introduce what is happening here to the world."


The quality of the meat producers facilities left a good impression on the foreign journalists. "The workshops we visited today were clean and equipped with the latest machinery. I feel that the meat produced here is safe," said Hideki Yui of NHK in Japan.


"Although a visit will not change foreigners concerns, Chinese food quality authorities and food producers showed their confidence by opening themselves to the media," said Zhang Weiqun, a TV producer from the Associated Press Beijing office.


Li Zhanjun, director of BOCOG Media Center, said that the media pool was organized because food safety was a hot topic and the center received many media requests from both home and abroad.


(Xinhua News Agency November 13, 2007)

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