Who touched my food? (4)

Enlarged kiwi fruit, mildewed zongzi, contaminated kelp and bamboo shoots and more in the fourth installment of our fortnightly food safety news summary – “Who touched my food?” – covering the period June 3 to June 16.

June 3, Xinhua: Fruit growers in Zhouzhi county of Shanxi province, known as the “town of kiwi fruit”, were found to have used growth enhancer to boost kiwi production by one-third. The growth enhancer has a harmful impact on human’s nervous system and it may also cause problems like dysplasia and dementia for children.

June 7, Xinhua: Mildew was found in zongzi produced by Wufangzhai, a food manufacturing company based in Zhejiang, and a possible connection was made to a case of a woman having miscarriage in Nanjing. Wufangzhai said they have already started an investigation and stressed that this was an isolated incident. Mildewed zongzi was also found in places including Chengdu and Shanghai.  

June 10, Qilu Evening News: “Stone watermelon” was found in Jinan – its pulp was rotten but its green outer skin was so hard that a man weighmore more than 140 kilograms could stand on it. A representative from the Vegetable Research Institute of Shandong Academy of Agricultural Science said further testing was required before a judgement could be made.

June 10, Reporters discovered that a barbeque market in Xian used beef and lamb powder to make chicken and duck taste like beef and lamb, after the authorities had recently carried strict law enforcement against the illegal use of food additives.

June 14, Chongqing Evening News: a batch of contaminated kelp and bamboo shoots was seized in Chongqing. After testing, it was found that the spicy kelp contained Benzoic acid sodium in order to extend its expiry date. Sodium metabisulfite had been added to the bamboo shoots, which were also smoked with sulphur.

June 16, Guangzhou Daily: Taiwan’s health authority said plasticiser DIBPwas found in ginger-powder imported from a Shanxi company in China. The Shanxi company said they would cooperate with the investigation.

Editor’s comments: Recently, China’s Ministry of Public Security has announced 10 cases of illegal use of food additives. Judicial powers certainly allow for investigation of who has broken food-safety regulations. However, as Liu Yuan-ju wrote in his article “Reading China’s food safety problem from an economic perspective, in this competitive market with a high level of administration and monopoly, the bargaining power of the primary-food producer is low. These businesses can only generate small profits, which don’t allow them to develop into modern enterprises that can complete with others through branding and reputation.

Therefore, they can only survive by selling low-quality foodstuffs to the public. If we look at the problem in this way, particularly in light of the recent news report about government officials procuring specially grown “safe” vegetables for their own use, it is obvious that we cannot tackle the food-safety problem through education and law enforcement, without thinking also about the market and systemic reform. Otherwise, it is inevitable that the cost of regulation will keep increasing, while new problems continue to occur.