March 14th, 2012
In this morning’s Baidu news alert were two articles that grabbed my attention, both, according to their headlines, on the discovery in Taiwan of clenbuterol hydrochloride-contaminated beef imported from Australia and New Zealand. Curious, I opened them up and also went looking through the NZ press to see if it been covered there. After all, NZ is almost entirely dependent on agricultural exports for its economic survival.
The first of the two Chinese articles struck me as being rather vague, moving quickly from the allegation of clenbuterol hydrochloride-contaminated beef imported from Australia and New Zealand to checking out Wuhan supermarkets, but without stating clearly the shift from Taiwan to Wuhan, even giving only the English names of the supermarkets the reporter visited.
The second goes into more detail, and manages to keep the action in Taiwan, but the more I read the less clear it is where the contaminated meat was actually sourced from. For example:
Also, when Dashan [a lamb/hogget/mutton and beef company caught supplying a restaurant in Taidong with contaminated beef] sold these goods to the restaurant they did not say clearly the origin [of the product]
What is clear is that the matter is under investigation, and that American beef may also be involved. There’s also a suggestion of worries over possible imports of North American beef because clenbuterol is apparently a legal additive in the USA and Canada, but not in Taiwan…. I’m therefore unsure of how American beef could have previously been mentioned in the article, if it’s not legal in Taiwan… Except that according to Wikipedia clenbuterol’s administration to animals that could be consumed by humans is banned in the USA…
And then I did a search on google.co.nz news, Stuff and the New Zealand Herald. What did I find? In the Herald, nothing relevant. Stuff was no better. Nor, for that matter, are either TVNZ or TV3. On google.co.nz, this article from Taipei Times. Except that Taipei Times has the contaminant of the New Zealand beef as ractopamine, and the allegedly Australian contaminated beef as contaminated with zilpaterol, and notes that both additives are banned in both Taiwan and Australia.
Aha! And Baidu Baike resolves my confusion over exactly what the contaminant is… kinda…:
Shouroujing is a kind of veterinary medicine, and many medicines are called shouroujing, for example Ractopamine and Clenbuterol.
Now, is it safe to assume the Taipei Times found out exactly which of the medicines called shouroujing were the contaminants?
But I do have to wonder, given that I can easily find Chinese- and English-language articles on the subject in the Mainland and Taiwan media, and given how dependent New Zealand is on agricultural exports and its clean, green image for its economic survival, and given how paranoid China has become about food safety, and given that Fonterra’s Chinese partners play up that 100% pure, clean, green NZ connection in their advertising (yes, I know that’s dairy rather than beef, but they’re both agricultural exports), why the NZ media seems so silent on this subject? Surely this is an issue which could potentially have a very serious impact on New Zealand’s economy? Surely at a time when the government seems determined to fire everybody then bash them for daring to be unemployed, the last thing New Zealand needs is those who are doing something useful and productive like producing goods for sale to suffer over perceptions, justified or otherwise, of the safety, or lack thereof, of our exports? And if New Zealand is producing contaminated beef, surely Something Needs To Be Done?