The Council of Agriculture (COA) in Taipei, Taiwan said that it now believes the number of pigs that were fed with a banned leanness-enhancing drug is much higher than they originally thought.
Hsu Tien-lai, director general of COA's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ), broke his agency's findings in the wake of a huge police bust against a drug-distributing crime ring.
Based on the profits that the ring collected, authorities estimate that the drug had been fed to 750,000 pigs from January 2010 to June 2011 - five times more than the number of pigs in which the COA actually detected during random checks in the same period.
Police announced that on Wednesday they busted a five-member ring masterminded by a man surnamed Lin, who smuggled in beta-agonist from China to produce the drug, ractopamine. The drug was then sold to pig farms on the island, and generated NT$50 million (€1.22 million) in profits for the quintet.
Based on the profits, the bureau estimates that 75,000 tons of tainted pig feed had been sold. If every pig was fed 100kg of feed for a month before its slaughter, then 750,000 pigs must have been fed.
The bureau originally detected only 147,500 pigs that had residue of ractopamine. Hsu said that the bureau will work with police to continue cracking down on such illegal practices in pig farms.
Meanwhile, ROC Swine Association President Pan Lien-chou said that with rampant use of the drug, authorities have to punish smugglers and farms that repeatedly use the drug.
BAPHIQ statistics showed that the 125 pig farms that were fined NT$30,000 (€730) for using the drug between January and June this year were first-time offenders. Of the 170 pig farms fined last year, only five farms were recidivists, and got slapped with a heavier fine NT$250,000 (€ 1,220).