A senior agriculture inspector has exhorted the government to jail people using harmful substances to artificially increase the weight of livestock, saying the fines in place now have failed to deter the practice.
Using illegal substances in animal farming is now imposed a fine of VND5-20 million (US$223-900).
But Pham Tien Dung, chief inspector at the agriculture ministry, pointed out that the penalty is meager compared to the VND100-300 million in extra profits a farmer would make.
“This murderous act needs to be deterred with criminal prosecution.”
Amendments to the Penal Code to take effect this July will consider stiffening the punishment to VND50-200 million fines or one to five years in jail.
Those selling products despite being aware they contain illegal substances will also be punished.
Illegal breeding substances, usually chemicals to increase lean meat in pigs and industrial coloring to provide poultry a golden skin which is much preferred than the white color, are widely used in Ho Chi Minh City.
The substances are banned in Vietnam since they can be passed on to humans consuming the meat and cause cancers over several generations.
Raids between January 8 and 17 at the city's slaughterhouses found high amounts of salbutamol, a steroid to increase lean meat and produce super-heavy pigs, in 864 pigs -- 30 percent of all animals checked. The pigs were supplied from farms in nearby provinces.
Khuong Tran Phuc Nguyen, chief inspector at the city animal health department, said 30 percent is an “alarming” rate, up from 10-15 percent in the past.
The worst contaminated samples contained salbutamol 4,700 times higher than the safe limit of 2 ppb (parts per billion), he said.
Of 15 farms raided, 13 have been fined several times in the past for the same act.