River full of dead, diseased pigs is just another food safety nightmare for China

River full of dead, diseased pigs is just another food safety nightmare for China

The Chinese are pissed, and if I were them I would be too.

One week after local residents first spotted them by a water treatment center, Chinese officials are still fishing dead pigs out of the Huangpu river. To date, they’ve used a dozen barges to pull 5,916 pigs out of the water. The pigs are believed to have originated from upriver farms after a series of investigations revealed illegal trade of meat harvested from diseased pigs. But don’t worry, the government says: The water’s fine!

REUTERS / Stringer China

The Guardian reports:

While the cause of the incident is still under investigation, water quality tests along the river have identified traces of porcine circovirus, a virus that can affect pigs but not humans. …

China’s toxic smog, rubbish-strewn rivers and contaminated soil have emerged as a source of widespread anger over the past few weeks, as profit-minded officials jostle with aggrieved internet users over how to balance the country’s economic development with its environmental concerns.

Experts say the groundwater in half of all Chinese cities is contaminated, most of it severely, and that soil pollution could be widespread in 15 of the country’s 33 provinces.

If China’s trying to go green and quell community anxiety and anger over environmental pollution, it best get all those pigs out of the drink right quick.

This certainly puts U.S. factory farm pollution in perspective! But whether or not this should be a wake-up call for China doesn’t mean the country will actually take the incident to heart. This was day eight of “pig-gate,” but, well, so what? From Bloomberg:

There are worse things than learning, as the residents of Shanghai did this week, that the source of the water for your morning shower and tea was contaminated by at least 5,916 dead pigs. You might find out that lamb you ate for dinner was duck soaked in toxic chemicals. That those dumplings you had as a late-night snack were fried in oil recovered from a gutter running beside an open sewer. Or worse yet, that the baby formula you’ve fed your newborn is laced with a plasticizer that damages kidneys.

For Shanghai’s 20 million residents, and indeed for China’s entire population, these recurring food-safety nightmares form the backdrop to their daily lives.

Like I said: If I were the Chinese, I’d be pissed.

Susie Cagle writes and draws news for Grist. She also writes and draws tweets for



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River full of dead, diseased pigs is just another food safety nightmare for China

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