Tuesday, January 25, 2011


India seems to have company when it comes to food adulteration and paradoxically the competition comes from China! If reports coming from South China are true, wide scale manufacture of sub-standard foods by the processing industry and use of additives with doubtful safety are putting the lives of people, especially the industrial workers who depend on factory canteens for their food while on duty. Rice noodles one of the most favorite staple foods are being manufactured from "rotten", "infested" and "infected" rice grains, unfit for human consumption and usually reserved for animals by the main milling industry. More detestable is that in order to compound the felony, the defects are sought to be camouflaged using non-permitted chemicals. Though the material undergoes steaming and extrusion during the manufacturing stage and is fried at the users end taking the temperature to beyond 165C, use of sub-standard raw material can never give a good quality end product.

"Large amounts of rice noodles made with rotten grain and potentially carcinogenic additives are being sold in south China, state press said Friday, in the country's latest food safety scare. Up to 50 factories in south China's Dongguan city near Hong Kong are producing about 500,000 kilogrammes (1.1 million pounds) of tainted rice noodles a day using stale and mouldy grain, the Beijing Youth Daily said. The cost-conscious producers were bleaching the rotting rice and using additives including sulphur dioxide and other substances that could cause cancer to stretch one pound (half a kilogramme) of grain into three pounds of noodles, it said. The poor-quality rice had often been reserved for animal feed before food prices began rising dramatically in China in the latter half of 2010, the paper said, citing wholesalers. Rice noodles, often fried and served with bits of meat and vegetables, are a favorite in south China. In recent weeks, a series of tainted food incidents have been reported in the state media as China gears up for New Year and Lunar New Year celebrations -- a time when food and alcohol purchases traditionally increase. Tainted red wine, bleached mushrooms, fake tofu and dyed oranges have all surfaced on store shelves -- spooking consumers still wary about food quality after a deadly scandal erupted two years ago over contaminated milk powder. In Dongguan, a random inspection of 35 rice noodle factories in early December revealed that only five of them were making products that were up to standard, the report said".

It is scary to hear about products like wine, mushroom, soy products, fruits like orange being "processed" to mask the defects and sell them as standard products. One would imagine that Chinese system, authoritarian in nature, could have more clout in disciplining its food industry through stringent deterrent measures but there appears to be no effective monitoring of the industry. The melamine tainted milk powder episode which claimed several young lives a couple of years ago is still fresh in the memory of people and the present image of Chinese food industry as an irresponsible player in that country gains more credibility because of the present rice noodle "scam".


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