SELANGOR state exco for Tourism, Health and Consumer Affairs Datuk Dr Lim Thuang Seng conducted a sampling and monitoring inspection on beta-agonist at four markets in the Petaling district yesterday.
Twenty-two samples of pork and beef meat were collected from the markets in Jalan Othman, Section 14, Jalan 17/1A, and Jalan 17/27 to be tested at the labs.
Beta-agonist is used to treat asthma patients. Unscrupulous farmers use it on pigs and cows so that they have leaner meat and thinner fat layers.
“Excessive beta-agonist can affect the health, and is especially dangerous for those with heart and diabetes problems,'' said Lim.
“It can cause irregular beating of the heart like tachycardia and will cause a breakdown of fat and increase the sugar level in the blood (a danger to diabetics).
“It will also decrease the amount of potassium in the body, which will cause tremors and even muscle cramps.”
Lim said most families were health conscious today and as such preferred meat with less fat.
“This has put pressure on farmers to deliver what they can and hence they resort to using beta-agonist to increase the supply for lean meat.”
He said a university research in 2004 on 304 samples of pig picked randomly in Selangor showed that 198 were tested positive for beta-agonist.
“That is about 65% of the samples taken. A study done by the Veterinary Dept in 2002-2003 showed that the level of beta-agonist varied from 26% to 37% in pigs, while cows, goats, and ducks tested negative for the substance. It shows that the use of beta-agonist is more rampant in pigs.
“In June, 2006, 66 pork samples were collected from Tip Top Meat, nine of which were tested positive for beta-agonist,'' said Lim. “This goes to show there is better control in government abattoirs, and ensures a better quality of meat.”
Tip Top Meat Sdn Bhd in Rawang is the only government-approved abattoir in Selangor.
“We will continue our investigation and check the meats sold at the markets,'' said Lim, adding that testing should actually be done before animals were sent to the slaughterhouse.
“By the time results are out, it's too late to do anything as people would have consumed the tainted meat already.''
The current system has the Veterinary Services Dept doing on-the-spot screening at the slaughterhouses, while the Health Department conducts checking at sellers' level.
Accompanying Lim on his rounds were Selangor State Health Depart-ment director Dr Ang Kim Teng, Petaling District Health Office administrative medical officer Dr Looi Poh Suan, Petaling Jaya City Council councillor Juan Sei Chang and several officers from the Health Dept.
“Consumers have the responsibility to choose,'' said Dr Ang.
“Pork with beta-agonist may be leaner, but the meat's also harder and less tasty,'' she said. “If you buy pork without beta-agonist, just remove the excess fat. It's safer.”