I have a trip back to the US coming up, so I offered to bring a few things back for my Chinese co-workers. My pregnant friend Grace didn’t even pause to think before telling me I needed to bring infant formula back for her. I have a feeling a few of you are scratching your heads right now thinking; “Can’t you buy formula in China?” You can, but all of my Chinese friends would agree that Grace has made a wise request.
China is struggling with an ongoing food safety crisis, which first caught the world’s attention back in 2008 with the infamous melamine laced infant formula that sickened 300,000 infants, and killed 6 (melamine helps watered down milk appear to be unadulterated when measuring protein, but causes kidney stones in infants). One would have thought that the execution of the farmers responsible would have sent a strong message to all other dairy producers, and these additives would never be an issue again. What hasn’t been as widely reported is that there have been at least 5 more instances of this exact same deplorable act, while the gov’t has arrested the most vocal advocates for food safety.
In fact just today on the People’s Daily there are 4 separate food safety related stories, which provide a broad look at some of the disturbing practices that are leading average Chinese people to list food safety as one of their top concerns.
Pork – This recent scandal that broke about 3 weeks ago involved feeding pigs clenbuterol which makes them grow more quickly with less fat. It’s also poisonous to people. This scandal is big news because it concerns China’s largest producer of pork, and pork is China’s favorite meat. This however seems fairly mild compared to the glowing meat found earlier this week in Shanghai.
Liquor – A few weeks ago China’s wine industry came under investigation for making chemically altered wine. This week a new story is coming to light that at least hundreds of people are involved in making fake booze. As to what that actually means is unclear, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was in someway similar to prohibition bootlegging.
Milk – Despite China’s recent closure of ½ of the nation’s dairy suppliers, 3 infants died this week in northern China from drinking poisoned milk. While this instance seems to be the most limited in it’s scope, this furthers Chinese fears over the safety of domestically produced milk. It’s no wonder there are starting to be fights in supermarket aisles over imported infant formula.
Steamed Buns – Shanghai’s largest manufacturer of steamed buns (a very popular breakfast food) had to issue a recall today in light of unsavory practices. It was revealed that when supermarkets returned unsold buns, the factory simply relabeled them, and that there were several chemicals added to the buns that were not listed on any of the packaging.
Ensuring food safety needs to be one of the government’s top priorities in the next few years, as it is one of the issues people are most willing to complain about openly.