The 9 Most Controversial Food Scandals in China
Posted on August 7, 2013
Think of the most gut-wrenching fake food scandals in the past decade, and what probably springs to mind is the melamine-tainted milk or contaminated meat scares that have marred China’s food industry.
But there’s even more.
Here’s a quick roundup of the nine most notorious food-related incidents reported in the most populous country in the world:
1.) Cardboard Meat Stuffed in Steamed Buns
What better way is there to cut production costs than to use cardboard in lieu of genuine meat? In this undated photo, the cardboard cuts are soaked in caustic soda, chopped into shreds, and drizzled with spices and pork flavoring.
This process may sound plausible, but in 2007, state-owned China Daily reported the arrest of a television reporter in Beijing for releasing allegedly false reports that an unlicensed food store was selling these cardboard-stuffed steamed buns.
To date, no supporting reports have confirmed that such practice exists in Chinese markets.
2. Melamine-laced Milk
How about increasing dairy production by simply adding water to milk? Sure, government-mandated tests would detect a smaller amount of proteins in diluted milk, but some profit-hungry individuals found a clever way to fool those quality checks.
Thanks to melamine, these diluted, tainted milk products passed the tests undetected. But here’s the fatal catch: in 2009, more than 50,000 Chinese infants and children were sickened, and four infants died from ingesting melamine-tainted milk.
3.) Fake Chicken Eggs
With the right mixture of calcium carbonate, gypsum powder, and paraffin wax, you’ll get perfectly shaped eggshells.
To create the egg white, a proportionate amount of sodium alginate is mixed with water, then incorporated with gelatin, alum, and benzoic acid. Then lemon yellow food color and calcium chloride are mixed to form the yolk. The finished product looks astonishingly similar to genuine eggs, but lacks the nutritional content, and adds the health risk of ingesting industrial-grade chemicals.
4.) Tainted Rice Noodles
For some, spoiled food still yields big bucks. In Dongguan, a city near Hong Kong, about 50 factories was found to be allegedly producing an estimated 500,000 kilos of rice noodles from mixtures of moldy, rotten grains, and chemicals believed to be carcinogenic, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.
5.) Fake Rice
Weekly Hong Kong reported in 2009 that the Singaporean media made claims about the still-widespread practice of producing fake rice in Taiyuan, a town in China’s Shaanxi province. Each fake grain contains a mixture of potato and sweet potato that is molded into rice-like shapes and sizes. Then the addition of industrial-grade plastic resin makes for the finishing touch.
The grains remain hard even when cooked, not to mention toxic for human consumption. One official from the Chinese Restaurant Association cites the dangers of eating fake rice: eating three cups is like eating one plastic bag.
Investigation into these allegations is still under way.
6.) Glow-in-the-Dark Pork
Toys and star-shaped wall decorations may look alluring as they glow in pitch darkness, but not the pork you just bought from the market.
In 2011, Miss Chen, a resident who bought the pork, noticed something unusual as she got out of bed to use the toilet. As she walked past the kitchen, she noticed a strange faint bluish glow coming from the leftover meat.
The same reports came from Changsha city.
This phenomenon led the Changsha Food Safety Commission to investigate, with the help of other government departments and experts in the field. The report indicated phosphorescent bacteria contamination, according to the Shanghai Health Supervision Department.
7.) Fake Wine
No fake wine escapes the taste buds of Jeannie Cho Lee, dubbed the Master of Wine. In a March 2012 Reuters report, he detected the copycat during a Hong Kong dinner party.
According to Ian Ford of Summegate Fine Wines, makers of fake wines took advantage of the surge in imported wines in the local market, adding that the potential victims were usually Chinese customers with little experience with wines.
8.) Rat Meat
No, we do not count this as fake. This is genuine, protein-rich meat — from rats. But what makes selling this meat a serious crime is falsely labeling the product as beef or mutton. And if rats are nowhere to be found, foxes and minks make a good alternative as well.
Recently, Chinese authorities made more than 900 arrests for food-related crimes, and in a three-month campaign mobilized by China’s Ministry of Public Security, which started in January 25, more than 380 cases of illegal food-related practices were uncovered. The crackdown itself amassed more than 20,000 tons of meat sold illegally.
What makes the processing of these meat products even more dangerous is the use of chemicals not intended for human consumption.
9.) Fake Walnuts
Walnut vendors found an ingenuous way to boost their profits: collecting empty walnut shells, filling them with cement and paper before gluing the shells together and mixing them with real nuts.
In China, where the price of walnuts skyrocketed from 350 RMB to about 3,500 (even reaching 5,000 RMB in just ten years), this trick works well for vendors desperately trying to rake in more cash.
And the list goes on and on. But with the Chinese government on the move to stop these food scandals at the very core, a glimmer of hope still shines on China’s currently beleaguered food industry.