Aug 02, 2001
VOL. I
NUMBER 6300-05

LEAN PORK POSES HEALTH RISK, WARN RESEARCHES
Consumers may be better off eating fatty pork rather than choosing lean, reddish pork that may contain harmful levels of beta-agonists and antibiotics, researchers said yesterday.
BY The Nation (Thailand)
August 2, 2001, Thursday

 

Consumers may be better off eating fatty pork rather than choosing lean, reddish pork that may contain harmful levels of beta-agonists and antibiotics, researchers said yesterday.

Prompted by consumer demand for lean pork, Thai swine breeders have gone to raising their hogs on feed mixed with high concentrations of illicit Clenbuterol and Salbutamol, which are normally used as asthma relief remedies, said Chainarong Khanthapanit, an associate professor of agriculture at Kasetsart University.

Livestock growers use beta-agonists as repartitioning agents to redirect nutrients away from fat tissues into muscle tissues.

The Livestock Development Department has banned the use of the compounds but many hog raisers continue to depend on them to reduce fat and to redden pork, said Chainarong, who is also a coordinator of the Thailand Research Fund's projects on livestock products, at a seminar on the matter.

Antibiotics also have been detected in many samples of swine carcasses, especially in their viscera, probably as the remnants of overdoses of antibiotics used to cure sick animals. Consumers who eat contaminated products are highly likely to be harmed by the chemicals, he said.

Even though there are no reports so far of anyone suffering from those kinds of substances through eating polluted meat, in 1990, 135 patients were believed to have fallen sick from eating beef or viscera tainted with beta-agonists. They reportedly had muscle tremors, vertigo, headaches and fast heartbeats. In 1991, 22 similar cases were reported in France, said veterinarian Thongchai Chalermkij of Chulalongkorn University's Veterinary Science Faculty.

Eating meat products contaminated with antibiotics probably causes drug resistance in patients taking the same sort of substance as medicine, he said.

Thongchai has successfully developed a test kit to examine meat for antibiotic residues that takes only a few hours to get results. In the past, the testing procedure took at least 18 hours to detect unwanted chemicals.

Jutharath Sethsakul, an associate professor of agricultural technology at King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Lat Krabang, said: "Pork contaminated with beta-agonists looks reddish and has a firm and not flexible texture, while chemical-free meat looks pale red, is pliant and has more fat tissue." She suggests consumers choose fatty rather than lean pork to make sure they get clean meat for cooking.

Her study on contaminated pork revealed that hogs raised in Thailand have a ratio of meat to fat that meets world standards, so there was no need to use chemical substances to gain extra meat and reduce fat in livestock growing, she said. "What we should do is grade carcasses and prices to align them with universal standards in a bid to compete in the world market."

Arthit Khwankhom

THE NATION