KUALA LUMPUR: Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek urged consumers to be patient until the authorities complete their checks on pig farmers and pork sellers.
Beta agonist is used by farmers to force their pigs to mature faster with a higher amount of lean meat, but it can cause palpitation, headaches and even death especially to heart patients.
“The demand for pigs in Selangor is 3,500 pigs a day, where half of them are slaughtered in illegal slaughter houses,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby here on Thursday.
He said that the pigs were suspected of being fed with beta-agonist for speedy growth as pig farmers rush to cash in on the high pork prices.
Chua had earlier met with Federation of Livestock Farmers Association of Malaysia representatives, Deputy Agriculture and Agro-Based Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shariff Omar and state executive councillors in Parliament.
He said farmers should sign an oath in front of a commissioner at the slaughterhouse when they brought their pigs there to ensure that the pigs were not fed with the chemical.
“If the authorities finds out that there is beta agonist in the pigs, the farmer will first be given a stern warning.
“But if the farmer repeats the offence, his pigs will be quarantined for a month so that they are not sold or exported or slaughtered illegally. If the farmer commits the offence for the third time, his farm will be closed,” said Dr Chua.
He also said pork sellers would be required to produce the invoice from their supplier or farmers to ensure that they did not buy from those who had used beta-agonist.
“If the seller fails to produce the invoice, he will be fined RM100,000 and jailed five years,” he said.
Dr Chua also said he would work together with the Housing and Local Government Ministry to identify illegal slaughterhouses.
“We will conduct raids and random checks on farmers and pork sellers,” he added.
However, he said there had been no deaths caused by the drug so far, except in China.
Food Safety and Quality Division director Dr Abd Rahim Mohamad, who was present, said farmers using beta-agonist had three weeks from now to get rid of the drug before enforcement began.
At the meeting they also decided that animal feed containing beta-agonist will be listed under restricted orders which means that the feed can be opened up for inspection and not allowed to be imported.
Chua said that the ministry had not found any pharmacist to be selling beta-agonist.“Beta-agonist used by the farmers are most likely smuggled from neighbouring countries,” he said.