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Food Safety in China in 2011


The past few months have been a particularly active period for food safety issues in China. The fact that something is wrong with the food that we are eating in China adds a panicky element to these food scandals that have cropped up with worrying frequency in recent months. The fact that there is deliberate malfeasance involved, moreover, adds an element of anger and general mistrust.

Tainted food is of course nothing new in China. We all remember the dramatic case of tainted milk in 2008, when six babies died and 300,000 people fell ill. What made this case so frightening, however, was the deliberate malfeasance involved: tainted milk for bigger profits. Since this time, the authorities have attempted to address the issue of tainted food, yet on recent results the outcome has not been overly successful.

Since February the following were some of the leading food safety issues in China:

  • On February 23, government scientists released research that millions of acres of Chinese agricultural land and over 12 million tons of Chinese grain are contaminated by toxic metal pollution. It was reported that Yunnan, Guangdong and Guangxi are particularly polluted. Crop contamination that soaks into the soil did not start this year, however this year the the extent of the problem is becoming clear
  • On April 10, it was reported that intentional poisoning of milk killed three childrenand caused 36 others to become ill in China's northwestern Gansu
  • On April 20, it was reported that 40 tons of bean sprouts treated with the chemical compounds sodium nitrite and urea, as well as antibiotics and a plant hormone called 6-benzyladenine, were sized in Shenyang. Sodium nitrite eliminate bacteria growth in food, yet can be toxic for humans
  • On April 22, Guangdong provincial authorities uncovered 16 tons of pork tainted with toxic chemicals. The pork was tainted with "colorings" made of sodium borate, bean flour and other additives. The authorities believe that it was done deliberately in order to make the pork look like beef and to sell it a higher price
  • On April 26, it was reported that 26 tonnes of milk powder tainted with melamine were seized in a Chongqing based company. The company bought the milk powder from a company in the southern region of Guangxi at a significantly lower price
  • On May 6, farmers in Jiangsu province reported cases of exploding watermelons, attributed to farmers excessively using forchlorfenuron, a growth accelerator. Chinese authorities do not actually forbid the drug, yet Chinese farmers have clearly made excessive use of this chemical

This post is courtesy of China Sourcing Blog.