Inspectors in Dong Nai Province called for a US$811 fine, on Tuesday, for a pig farm that illegally bulked up its animals with contaminated water before selling them for slaughter.
A team of market managers, environmental police and animal health officials paid a surprise visit to Vu Xuan Hai’s pig farm in Bien Hoa on October 24 prompted by a Thanh Nien investigation into the practice published early last week.
They caught Hai's employees red-handed and issued a warning.
They came back on Monday and found the practice still going on, and have since asked Bien Hoa officials to fine Hai VND17.25 million ($810.75).
Last week, an undercover Thanh Nien reporter visited Dong Nai pig farms and found workers pumping pigs full of well water by driving pipes deep into their muzzled mouths.
Insiders said the water contained high levels of alum which can be easily absorbed into the meat.
Each pig was loaded with water several times in a few hours before being butchered.
The practice added four to five kilograms to each animal.
Inspectors at Hai’s farm caught nine workers pumping water into 42 out of 930 pigs at the farm.
The workers said they sedated the pigs before pumping.
Hai has admitted to ordering the practice.
The act of pumping water into animals either before or after slaughter is punishable by VND5-6 million ($235-282) according to a government decree that went into effect in October of last year.
Vo Khac Nhu, a Dong Nai market manager, called the fines “too low.”
Nhu said one can earn a profit big enough to cover the fines by bulking up 20 pigs.
Tran Van Quang, head of the Dong Nai Animal Health Department, also said the penalty “fails to deter” violators.
The decree forces those found guilty of the practice to “turn the adulterated animal products into animal feed.”
But officials said if the pigs are bulked up before being slaughtered, there’s no animal products and the violators still have their pigs.
Quang said if the violators were forced to turn pumped pigs, dead or alive, into animal feed, “they wouldn't dare to pump their pigs because the losses would be huge.”
Dong Nai, the country's biggest pork producer, made national headlines in 2012 after the media exposed the widespread use of steroids like clenbuterol and salbutamol to increase their weight.