China’s food fears – Qing Zhou

A new two-part series from China Dialogue on the increasingly dodgy territory of food production in China. From part one:

Let’s just look at pickled vegetables. Although pickled vegetables were first made in Sichuan, there is hardly anyone in the whole country who hasn’t tasted this delicious snack. But now when you visit Sichuan, your friends will say to you: ‘Do you like pickled vegetables? There’s a factory in Chengdu that pickles the vegetables in DDVP.’ In the past everyone in Sichuan would have pickled vegetables with their meals, but now the managers of some pickled vegetable factories say that, ‘We don’t eat any of these pickles in Sichuan, we sell them to people from other provinces.’

After some secret interviews, I finally uncovered the truth about this business. The most important part of the pickling process is the soaking. I noticed that the salt used in the pickling was not only whiter than most salt, but the grains were finer. So I asked, ‘How come it’s so white?’ The manager said, ‘This salt is bought on the black market. It’s cheaper by 50 yuan a jin.’ Later in the yard outside, I saw printed on the bags of salt the terrifying words, ‘Industrial Salt’, and ‘Not for human consumption.’
[Full Text]

See part two here. Also see Jonathan Watt’s report in the Guardian on one of the largest Chinese food scandals in recent memory–fake milk powder that killed at least 50 babies in 2004.

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