Slaughterhouse fire in China prompts safety call

By David Green, in Beijing

- Last updated on GMT

Slaughterhouse fire has led to questions over safety of Chinese cold chain
Slaughterhouse fire has led to questions over safety of Chinese cold chain

Related tags Livestock Poultry

China must pay greater attention to safety procedures governing the use of ammonia in cold chain storage facilities, following a chemical leak and deadly fire at a slaughterhouse in the country’s northeastern Jilin province, industry officials said yesterday (4 June).

The fire, which, as of this morning had left 120 workers at the Jilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry plant dead and a further 60 recovering in hospital, was triggered by explosions related to a chemical ammonia leak, according to state media.  

“As China’s use of cold chain storage facilities increases, greater attention should be paid to preventing similar incidents, particularly as regards the use of chemical ammonia, which is toxic, corrosive and volatile,”​ He Zhonghua, an analyst with China Meat Industry Network, told​. China Meat Industry Network is a consultancy owned by the government-linked China Meat Industry Association.

China’s cold chain network is widely acknowledged to still be in a developmental stage, but the government has set ambitious targets to grow the sector under its 12th Five-Year Plan, which calls for the establishment of a group of large-scale cold chain logistics distribution centres across the country.
“I’ve looked at many cases studies of accidents in China’s meat industry, and this is the biggest I’ve ever seen,”​ He said, adding that while he was not sure if or how quickly new regulations might be issued in the wake of the tragedy, there would certainly be a large-scale safety check of existing facilities.

Sarah Li, director of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council’s Hong Kong branch, said that while her office had not spoken directly to the Baoyuanfeng plant, another broiler company close by confirmed they had been asked by the local government to suspend production pending a safety inspection.

In an indication of how seriously China’s leadership is taking the disaster, the central government immediately dispatched the minister of public security, Guo Shengkun, to the scene of the fire to coordinate rescue efforts. President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang have also taken an active hand in directing the response, amid calls for a thorough investigation into the causes of the disaster from relatives of the victims and across social media.

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