This has been a rough summer for food safety, with the European E. Coli outbreak and Salmonella poisonings in the U.S. But no country has had more bizarre food mishaps than China. It seems that every week a new horror story about fake eggs or glowing meat is reported.
The problem is not a new one. In 2008, poisonous milk killed six children and sickened thousands ,and in 2004 investigators found that a factory in Hubei province was making soy sauce from human hair. The Chinese government in turn has declared that it will sentence food safety violators to death. So far this year more than 2,000 people have been arrested for food violations, including one man who was given a suspended death sentence for selling contaminated pork. The government is even offering rewards to citizens who name food safety offenders (the reward amount has not been disclosed).
Here are just 5 of China’s food safety problems from this year:
- Antifreeze Vinegar
Tainted vinegar is one of the most serious food crises to hit China recently. Eleven people have died and nearly 150 have been sickened by vinegar stored in barrels that, allegedly, previously contained antifreeze. Investigators are still determining whether manufacturers were aware that antifreeze had been present in the barrels.
- Pork That Glows Blue
Yes, that’s right, blue. Uncooked pork was found glowing in the dark due to a phosphorescent bacteria. An unsuspecting woman bought the pork in a Shanghai market only to find it radiating later that night on her kitchen table (sidenote: maybe it’s not a good idea to leave uncooked pork on your table all night?). The ghostly pork returned to normal meat color by morning.
- Exploding Watermelons
The setting for this fruit catastrophe is Jiangsu province, where farmers over-sprayed their watermelons with growth-promoting chemicals that caused the watermelons to start exploding. The chemical spray seems to be the obvious culprit, but one farmer in the region claims his exploding watermelons were chemical-free.
- Tainted Steamed Buns
Investigators found that a workshop in Zhejiang province was adding banned synthetic lemon-yellow dye to steamed buns so that the cheap wheat buns look like more expensive corn flour buns. Customers who bought these imposter confections were probably unpleasantly surprised when they tasted like lemon instead of corn. Taste is not the only problem with the yellow dye, however. Consuming food containing the dye over a prolonged period of time can lead to liver and nervous system damage.
- Pork Sold as Beef
In yet another case of imitation food, an additive used to disguise pork as beef was found for sale in a Shanghai market this spring. The additive allowed restaurants to give cheap pork the taste and appearance of more expensive beef, thereby enabling the restaurants to make a greater profit on “beef” sales. While the additive is relatively safe, the idea of selling one meat as another is generally repulsive. For approximately three dollars one can buy a 500-gram bottle of the additive, which is enough to “disguise” 25 kilograms of pork.
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