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Fake Eggs and Contaminated Rice: Let the Consumer in China Beware

Fake Eggs and Contaminated Rice: Let the Consumer in China Beware

Americans all too often chafe at federal oversight of their lives. Reading about recent food safety scandals in China, where there’s fewer than one food inspector for every 10,000 people, reminds one of why consumer advocacy organizations and federal regulations from agencies like the Food and Drug Administration are so important.

Here are a few examples from a recent New York Times article:

In recent weeks, China’s news media have reported sales of pork adulterated with the drug clenbuterol, which can cause heart palpitations; pork sold as beef after it was soaked in borax, a detergent additive; rice contaminated with cadmium, a heavy metal discharged by smelters; arsenic-laced soy sauce; popcorn and mushrooms treated with fluorescent bleach; bean sprouts tainted with an animal antibiotic; and wine diluted with sugared water and chemicals.

Even eggs, seemingly sacrosanct in their shells, have turned out not to be eggs at all but man-made concoctions of chemicals, gelatin and paraffin. Instructions can be purchased online, the Chinese media reported.

One more example, involving the death of a young child:

Consumers have also been repeatedly poisoned by excessive levels of the chemical nitrite in meat, Feng Ping, a professor at the Beijing Academy of Food Sciences, told an international food-safety conference last month. The most recent suspected case occurred April 21 when a 1-year-old Beijing girl died after eating fried chicken bought from an outdoor vendor, a local newspaper reported.

These food safety violations are all the more glaring after a 2008 milk powder scandal, when melamine-contaminated baby formula sickened 300,000 infants and killed at least 6. A food safety law was passed in 2009 in China, with hundreds of regulations in keeping with international norms. While half of the country’s dairy food companies have had to stop production unless they comply with new licensing rules, abuses continue. As the New York Times notes, in China, illegal additives are readily available and cost-effective while “manufacturers calculate correctly that the odds of profiting from unsafe practices far exceed the odds of getting caught.” China has nearly half a million food producers, 80 percent of which have ten or fewer workers.

The rise in food safety scandals is at least indirectly related to the economic boom China is currently experiencing. But the country’s rising wealth and the growth of its middle class are creating their own set of problems, of which food safety abuses are just one. Another is income inequality: The New York Times has been running a number of articles about the widening gap between the rich and poor in China. In 1988 the average income of the top 10 percent of Chinese was about 12 times that of the bottom 10 percent; by 2007, those at the top earned 23 times more. Income inequality is manifested in numerous ways including the newly rich building excessively lavish tombs.

China’s “iron political controls” mean that “no powerful consumer lobby exists to agitate for reform, press lawsuits that punish wayward producers or lobby the government to pay as much attention to consumer safety as it does to controlling threats to its own power.” In view of the government’s swift clampdown at even anonymous online hints of “Jasmine Revolution” protests in the wake of those in the Middle East, Chinese consumers will have to keep choosing what they eat with more than a little care.

 

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158 comments

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1:37PM PST on Mar 1, 2013

Appalling as this is sadly it is nothing new- in British Victorian cities chalk was added to flour to pad it out and other nasties ended up in peoples' food such as lead and arsenic.

7:56AM PST on Mar 1, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

5:41AM PST on Feb 3, 2013

Don't eat anything from china... Wow...
I heard at one point Chinese beer contained formaldehyde.... Yikes!

1:40AM PDT on Jun 13, 2011

ALL HAVE GIVEN FREE ENTRANCE TO CHINESE TO THEIR CITIES AND MARKETS, THEY SELL CHEAPER, THEY´VE GOT THOUSANDS OF CLIENTS, THEY WORK FASTER WITHOUT CONTROL, MONEY, GOD AND IDOL OF THEIR LIFES AS MOST OF MILLIONS PEOPLE MAKE THIS HAPPENS:
BAN PRODUCTS AND THE CRUELTY THEY USE RELATED TO ANIMALS

1:37PM PDT on Jun 6, 2011

This is actually pretty darn terrifying... The scarier thing is it could happen so much easier for us...

10:34AM PDT on May 29, 2011

I don't find this shocking as the Chinese have been profiteers for years. They make the shoddiest goods and Americans buy them up like candy. When we learn to read labels and become aware of what we are buying and realizing that cheap goods are just what you purchased, then maybe it will change. The same goes for food, the next step is that China will export this food and it will be cheaper to buy than American made goods, they'll risk dying to save money! This is how this garbage sells so well. I'm a poor person but I'd rather do without than pay for a cheaper, unhealthier version. I buy locally whenever possible, farmers markets and the like. When people start to realize that buying outside your own country is killing our economy maybe that change will come about. But I don't see this as any time soon. If China sees a profit in selling plastic rice here, then you're going to find the shelves stocked with it. And people will be clamoring for it. And Americans will be sick and some will have to die before its stopped. It always happens this way - you need real, in your face, proof before anyone does anything about it. And they'll still be idiots who will buy because its cheaper. So keep killing yourselves while boosting the economy of China - have a ball.

3:44PM PDT on May 28, 2011

scary and the potential for this to happen on a global level is all too real, and is most likely a reality as we speak. Its not just a China issue as big corporate giants use governments as well, for their own gains and to take advantage, best to be vigilant in keeping our eyes open on all policies and ammendments to charters and rights to freedoms, and knowing the impacts. Who's watching as the foxes are looking after the hen house?

10:05AM PDT on May 27, 2011

it looks like the Chinese economy is based on greed and deception

8:34PM PDT on May 21, 2011

I could not help but laugh at Tammy D's reply to my comment. She says i do not have an understanding of the country i have been living however, she seems to think that Shanghai is in the north of china.... how many other people deserve an opinion when they do not know what they are talking about? Also may i add that wherever they are serving dog and cat... it is illegal .... but you lot who are saying how terrible this is and people who are wanting to start wars etc didnt know that did you?

12:10PM PDT on May 18, 2011

not good to know

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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