In the last decade, China has seen explosive economic growth and has emerged as the world’s factory. Billions of dollars worth of goods manufactured and traded each year has made China one of the richest countries in the world in terms of national GDP. Unfortunately, this fast economic growth has tempted some companies to take short cuts, leading to some disturbing scandals involving food that shocked Chinese citizens and gained widespread attention in the media.
Stinky Feet Rice Noodles
In 2014, someone uploaded photos of the unsanitary conditions at the Tongcheng Rice Product Factory in Guangdong Province, China. The photos show workers stepping on and sleeping in piles of rice noodles strewn all over the floor, causing the internet to dub the scandal, “Stinky Feet Rice Noodles”. A manager said that these photos were taken when the employees had been overworked during the Chinese New Year. The factory has since been ordered to shut down while officials carry out strict health and hygiene inspections.
In 2008, around 53,000 Chinese babies and children were sickened by milk products tainted with melamine. 40,000 were treated as out-patients, 14,000 were hospitalized, and 4 children died. The melamine was added to watered down milk to falsely increase the protein content.
Glowing Blue Pork
In 2011, a woman bought a kilogram of pork from a wet market. After dinner, she placed the leftover pork on a kitchen table. When she got out of bed in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, she noticed the pork on the table was emitting a faint blue glow. After the media reported this and other local residents also discovered their purchased pork glowed blue, food safety officials found that the pork had been contaminated with phosphorescent bacteria, which was responsible for emitting the faint light.
Some Chinese food companies were discovered to be producing and selling fake chicken eggs. Paraffin wax, gypsum powder, calcium carbonate, and other materials formed the shell, while sodium alginate, gelatine, water, and food coloring created the egg white and yolk. The result is fake egg that looks a lot like a real one, but has little to no nutritional value and contains chemicals that can harm the body over time.
In past years, the price of walnuts in China increased dramatically, enticing scammers to sell fake walnuts–empty walnut shells stuffed with concrete and paper then glued shut. Scammers would double their profits by selling the real walnuts and keeping the shells to sell as fake walnuts.
Cardboard Steamed Buns
In 2007, an investigative report was aired on Chinese television which claimed that street vendors were soaking cardboard in industrial chemicals to soften it, then mixed with pork fat to create the fillings in steamed buns. Chinese officials however, reported that there was no evidence of cardboard in local buns. The local reporter who reported the story was sentenced to a year in jail for allegedly faking the news report, but that didn’t stop suspicions that the government was attempting to cover up the truth to calm a horrified public.
In 2011, regional media claimed that fake rice was being distributed in the town of Taiyuan. The fake rice was a combination of potatoes, sweet potatoes, and plastics molded into the shape of rice grains. A Chinese Restaurant Association official explained that eating three bowls of this fake rice would be like eating one plastic bag which of course is very harmful to the body.
With a fast growing wine industry in China, counterfeiting wine has become a very lucrative business. Counterfeiters come up with increasingly sophisticated methods to replicate famous brands of wine and sell it to inexperienced Chinese consumers.
Falsely Labeled Meat
In 2013, more than 900 people had been arrested in cases where meat labeled as beef and mutton were found to be meat from rats, minks, and foxes. Authorities seized 20,000 tonnes of illegal products–including falsely labeled meat and meat treated with toxic chemicals.