Monday, January 25, 2016

Use of Opium to season food preparations-Latest food scare in China

It is not easy to forget the greatest food fraud in China which occurred a few years ago killing and maiming hundreds of unsuspecting children after consuming baby foods made from milk adulterated with the toxic Melamine, a polymer material used in varnishes. Unfortunately the fraudsters are still alive and kicking in that country with the government, though considered a totalitarian regime, not able to do much to weed them out from the society. Latest scandal to emerge involves use of the intoxicant Opium to season some of the food preparations served in reputed restaurants. Opium in limited quantities are used to treat certain disease conditions but for a normal person to consume it regularly is unthinkable as this opioid is a habit forming one.making customers addicts.  Here is a take on this unfortunate episode reported recently from China.

"Thirty-five restaurants in China selling popular dishes and snacks were found to have used opium poppies as a seasoning, China's top food safety regulator said. Owners of 25 of the restaurants have been transferred to public security departments for criminal investigation, the China Food and Drug Administration said last Thursday. The other 10 are under investigation by the administration. The restaurants include some that are locally well known, including Huda Restaurant in Beijing, which specialises in spicy crayfish. Adding opium poppies to dishes violates China's Food Safety Law, which forbids the selling of food made with non-food materials or chemicals, except for food additives. Violations could result in fines or criminal penalties. The regulator called on local food and drug authorities to punish those involved and to cooperate with public security departments to find the sources of the poppies. It also required food and drug authorities to intensify supervision and inspection of restaurants that sell food like fried chicken and noodles. Professor of food safety and nutrition Luo Yunbo, at the China Agricultural University, said opium causes addiction and serious harm to health if overused, and it is banned from use in food in China. "There are so many restaurants in China and it is very difficult to effectively inspect every one of them to ensure they follow the law," he said."

What is galling is that irrational statements are being made regarding the impossibility of preventing such malpractices in the catering sector. Is it not the responsibility of the State to give protection to its citizens whatever may the cost or difficulties? What are the food safety personnel doing there if they cannot discharge their surveillance responsibility and why the government is soft on these criminals, instead of putting them in jails for long terms besides confiscating their properties? Though only 35 restaurants in Beijing so far have been found to be delinquents, this practice might be widespread through out the country because of the long term gains these eateries will have by making their regular customers more and more addicted to their food preparations! It is regrettable for any one to obfuscate by saying such practices can be weeded out only through education which presupposes that those indulging in such practices are innocent and illiterates! No doubt food safety surveillance is a heavy responsibility on all governments but showing helplessness is nothing but abdication of their duty of protecting the citizens through convincing and trust inspiring action.  

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