It is unknown whether the tainted pork, from animals imported from mainland China that were said to contain veterinary drug residues, has been sold or consumed, but a Centre for Food Safety official said that it was not a serious health hazard.
The Hong Kong slaughterhouse that processed the pigs has been helping authorities to trace some 2,200kg of pork and offal from retailers.
The hunt began after urine samples from 319 pigs were found to be contaminated with Salbutamol and Clenbuterol— beta-agonist drugs used in asthma medication and illegal food additives that can lead to increased heart rate, dizziness and headaches when eaten—at two farms in China, the sources of the Hong Kong shipment.
Fork Ping-lam, assistant director of Hong Kong’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, said that an investigation into the incident was launched after 40 pigs left the slaughterhouse in Sheung Shui.
The tainted pork has been sent to 27 retailers across Hong Kong, including two Wellcome supermarkets in Lam Tin and Sheung Shui, and three Kai Bo Food Supermarkets.
The Centre for Food Safety official stressed that the retail outlets concerned were unaware of the condition of the meat they were selling.
Around 1.6m local and imported live pigs are slaughtered in Hong Kong each year. The last time that beta-agonist residue was detected in urine samples of live pigs was in 2012.
Under Hong Kong regulations, samples are collected from every batch of food animals admitted to local slaughterhouses for testing of chemicals and veterinary drug residues.
If samples are found to be unsatisfactory, the affected batches of the animals will be withheld and destroyed. The FEHD is now conducting a comprehensive investigation into the incident and review.