Raft of food safety scandals has shaken Chinese consumers
Recent food scandals in China:
KFC outlets in China were forced to stop selling some chicken wings and chicken burger products after the banned food colouring, Sudan I or "Sudan Red" was found in sauces. The colouring was banned from use in food due to concerns it could lead to an increased risk of cancer. China sales were badly affected for Yum Brands, the KFC licence operator, but rebounded in subsequent months.
The biggest scandal to date came shortly after the Beijing Olympics, in September 2008, when six children died and a further 294,000 were made sick after drinking milk contaminated with melamine, with 51,900 requiring hospitalisation. The company is said to have known of the problem for months but claims the contaminant came from milk suppliers. The scandal caused global concern and a host of countries banned or recalled China-made dairy products. The chemical was added to watered-down milk by unscrupulous milk suppliers to give it the appearance of high protein levels.
China's largest meat processor, Shuanghui, which bid US$7.4 million for the US meat company Smithfield in May, was forced to apologise over illegal additives found in its meat and halted production after China Central Television reported farmers in central Henan province fed an additive to their animals and then sold them to a slaughterhouse owned by the group. The company subsequently pledged to step up quality control.
The Chinese food regulator ordered an investigation into a food safety scandal in Shanghai, where steamed-bun makers reportedly added illegal chemicals to steamed buns to cheat customers. Chemicals were added in random amounts, the China Daily reported, although they did not appear on the list of ingredients as required by law. The added ingredients included sodium cyclamate, an artificial sweetener nearly 30 times sweeter than sugar, as well as potassium sorbate, a food preservative. Yellow colouring was used in so-called corn-flour buns that actually contained little corn.
Farmers in eastern China were baffled after their watermelons began to explode. An investigation by state media found farms in Jiangsu province were losing acres of fruit because of the problem, and it was blamed on overuse of a chemical that helps fruit grow faster.
Products from Mengniu Dairy company were destroyed after they were found to contain aflatoxin, which can cause severe liver damage. The levels discovered were 140 per cent higher than normal.
China's biggest milk producer by revenue, Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group, recalled baby formula tainted with what it described as "unusual" levels of mercury. China's product quality watchdog detected the mercury in several batches of Yili baby formula, which is sold nationwide. The grim irony was that the recall took place during China's Food Safety Week and a day after the cabinet introduced fresh measures to tighten supervision of the sector.
The trial started of the man known as the "Shandong Oilman", Liu Liguo, who was accused of selling thousands of gallons of "gutter oil" pumped from sewers outside restaurants, or pressed from garbage. By some reckoning, he was producing 60 tonnes of oil a day and much of the gutter oil used by Liu's companies came from Beijing sewers.
In July 2011, he was arrested at one of his gutter oil companies and eventually sentenced to life in prison in April this year.
Chinese consumers sought answers as Shanghai government officials insisted the city's water quality was "normal" despite the discovery of 15,000 dead farm animals in the Huangpu River. The deaths have still not been explained.
This month also had a scandal where yogurt sold by Mengniu was labelled as being produced on February 30, despite the fact there is no February 30.
While Chinese people are used to dipping all manner of delicacies in their simmering hotpots, the preponderance of rat, mink and fox meat turned the stomachs of diners all over China. There was widespread anger at news from the ministry of public security of the arrest of traders in eastern China who bought rat, fox and mink flesh and sold it as lamb. As if that wasn't bad enough, the rat, mink and fox flesh was doused in gelatin, red pigment, and nitrates.
This month also saw a food scare affected the staple diet of southern China: rice. Consumers were horrified to discover "cadmium rice" or rice containing levels of the heavy metal cadmium, on the menu. Reports that supplies of rice sold in southern China from big rice-producing provinces such as Hunan were contaminated, saw sales slump, and prompted strong demand for imported rice. The Guangzhou food and drug administration said 44 per cent of rice tested in selected samples had excessive levels of cadmium.
Yesterday, officials in southern China shut 112 illegal mines after polluted run-off entered the local water supply, killing fish and making the water unusable for 30,000 people, the China Daily said. Pollutants including cadmium and thallium flowed into the Hejiang River after heavy rain led to flooding, and the mines were closed on Saturday, Bloomberg reported the paper as saying. Tests on the water showed that levels of cadmium exceeded standards by 1.9 times and thallium by 2.14 times. China plans to invest 4 trillion yuan (Dh2.39 billion) by 2020 on its water resources, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
Updated: July 9, 2013 04:00 AM