Farmers often feed livestock with spoiled restaurant leftovers and low-quality feed to cut costs. Fish, crabs and even sea cucumbers are raised in tight nets or cases in polluted waters. Such dirty environments lead to large-scale bacterial infection.
To keep their products healthy and cut down on losses, farmers often use heavy doses of antibiotics, which are easily available and cheap.
Zhou Jianhua, a researcher with the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute under the Ministry of Agriculture, said most farmers were not informed about the nature of antibiotics and the risk of overdose. Some even mistake antibiotics for nutritional additives to animal feed – the more the better, he said.
People who eat these livestock products regularly are at risk of developing strong resistance to antibiotics. Some Chinese infants have even become immune to multiple antibiotics because their mothers ate contaminated meat and egg products while pregnant.
Of course no food scandal is complete without a pledge to step up regulations that’s really just a ploy to save face and satisfy critics while nothing substantive is done. Says He Li, marketing director with Beijing Huaan Magnech Bio-Tech:
“They [government food safety agencies] are extremely eager to tighten up inspections. Their attitude has changed dramatically in the last couple of years, because they feel enormous pressure after so much bad news on food safety.”