With all the excitement generated from the milk scandal, many are not aware that this is the latest in a long line of food or food additives produced in mainland China that have been banned over the years. Let’s take a look at some of them:
1. Sudan 1 Red – this dye hit the headlines in 2005 when it was discovered to be present in preserved duck eggs, chili oil and (yikes!) Kentucky Fried Chicken, although a ban had earlier been implemented in 1996. Known to be a cancer-causing chemical, the Chinese General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (GAQSIQ) has since assured consumers that this substance has been withdrawn following strict enforcement.
2. Counterfeit Drugs – in 2007, it was discovered that fake human albumin, a life-saving protein given in drips to critically-ill patients, had been supplied to 18 hospitals in China, giving the makers a 300% profit. BBC News reported it here.
3. Melamine again – also in 2007, melamine-containing wheat gluten and rice protein used to make pet food was blamed for the deaths of several pet cats and dogs in the USA, leading to the GAQSIQ taking more action.
4. Pesticide residue – in 2006, Greenpeace discovered that 70% of vegetables sold in two Hong Kong supermarkets were covered in illegal pesticide residue. Similarly, in January this year, several people in Japan fell ill after consuming dumplings from China which were contaminated with several toxic insecticides, including parathion. Reuters reported that the Chinese government requested for a cover-up of this incident.
5. Contaminated powdered ginger – In July 2008, it was discovered that a supermarket chain in the United States had been selling powdered ginger produced in China, which was labeled as organic, but when tested was found to contain the banned pesticide Aldicarb.
The crisis China faces now is to regain consumers’ confidence with regards to food safety of its products. The regulatory body, GAQSIQ has no choice but to be transparent and possibly, revise some of its rules to allow foreigners to be part of the enforcement process. Meanwhile, consumer countries have no choice but to err on the side of caution by being extra-vigilant in screening China-made products…at their tax-payers’ expense, of course.
Update(06/10/2008): SOUTH Korea has declared a rising volume of Chinese imported kimchi, or spicy fermented cabbage, to be inedible due to banned or harmful additives found in it. The Korea Food and Drug Administration told parliament it blocked 1,637 tonnes of Chinese-made kimchi due to food safety concerns last year. The kimchi shipments were found to have ‘inedible’ additives such as cancer-causing artificial sweeteners or banned colourings, the food and drug agency said.