The business was notified by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) on Friday 26 May that safety inspectors in China found residues of ractopamine in one of Olymel’s pork shipments.
The adrenoreceptor agonist is banned in China, the EU and Russia, but is legal in Canada and the US.
Olymel, though, claims it does not use ractopamine and has launched an investigation to establish how pork processed at its Vallee-Jonction factory in Quebec came to contain ractopamine.
Hundreds of suppliers face investigation
A company spokesperson said it is probing “a few hundred” independent pig farmers who supply the Vallée-Jonction plant, which slaughters 35,000 pigs per week and has 1,400 staff.
“We shouldn’t find any residues of ractopamine in our pork, so we are investigating now where it may have been a problem from one of our suppliers,” said a company spokesperson.
The company representative said Olymel is not able to disclose any further information until the investigation is complete. Results are expected soon but the business would not put a timeframe on this.
It is understood that CFIA is in contact with its Chinese counterparts and in conjunction with Olymel, all three parties are collaborating to establish how the banned drug ended up in one of the most important markets for Canada pork.
Senior food safety figures in Canada fear this failure could curb future trade with China, badly affecting future dealings with its second-largest pork market.
Behind only the US, China imported over 250,000 tonnes of Canadian pork in the 12 months to March 2017, according to data provided exclusively to this site by World Trade Stats.
Exports to China from the Olymel Vallée-Jonction factory have been suspended until the investigation is concluded and any pork in transit has been recalled. However, shipments of pork to China are still flowing from Olymel’s eight factories and cold storage facilities licensed to send pig meat to China.
In total, the company exports pork products to 65 countries.