Three farmers in Fujian Province, who were contracted to dispose of pigs that had died on the farm - many from porcine diseases, have been detained for butchering the carcasses and selling the meat for human consumption.
Local police said a farmer, surnamed Lin, who had been hired by agricultural officials to collect carcasses, confessed that she started selling meat from the dead pigs in August. Another carcass collector, surnamed Wu, said he started doing the same thing after seeing how much money Lin, who was a neighbor, was able to earn.
Wu and Lin teamed up and expanded their illegal business by building a freezer that could hold six tons of dead pigs. They also hired three butchers and sold the meat in standard 20-kilogram packages.
Wu, Lin and their helper, surnamed Chen, along with the company's truck driver and guard are now facing criminal charges for selling substandard food, according to a statement from the Ministry of Public Security on Thursday.
The three butchers hired from Henan Province remain at large, and the case is still under investigation.
The scandal is listed as one of 10 food scandals relating to meat products by the ministry.
The ministry statement said Wu, Lin and Chen shipped more than 40 tons of problematic pork, worth some 3 million yuan ($487,500), from Fujian to dining tables in Guangdong and Hunan provinces over three months prior to being detained in March.
The suspects were detained after local police in Zhangzhou Taiwanese Investment Zone received a tip that pig carcasses were being secretly stored at the Fujian Xiexin Frozen Foods Company.
A law enforcement officer was quoted by the Fuzhou-based Straits News as saying that piles of pig carcasses were discovered in the freezer. "About 25 tons of pork was found in the warehouse, plus seven more tons were about to be shipped in a waiting truck."
A pseudo-rabies virus was found in the pork during tests conducted by the local animal disease control and prevention center. The virus that causes blue ear disease, which likely killed the pigs, was also detected. Both viruses are highly contagious and fatal to the animals.
During the police investigation, another illegal pork business and a warehouse used to store pig carcasses located in Fujian Province were also discovered and were found to have been working with Lin.