Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Shagged by China's food scandals

Just last month, I was writing about one of the latest food scandals to hit China: preserved so-called "century egg" that used industrial copper sulphate, a toxic chemical, to speed up production. This was just one reason why, if I knowingly am aware about it, I no longer wish to buy foodstuff that's imported from China.

Century eggs from China, canned foodstuff from China (how I loved the Ma Ling brand of luncheon meat when I was younger!), fresh vegetables from China, fruits from China, milk powder from China ... the list can go on and on.

Only today, I learnt from one stall owner at the Kampong Baharu market in Bukit Mertajam that he has stopped selling Indian red onions. "Many of my customers complain that they are too small," he told me.

Then, pointing to his new stock of big, round onions, he said that they originated from China. His customers preferred to buy big onions. "What to do," he shrugged when I protested feebly that I wanted back my Indian onions, "I've to sell what they want to buy." And me? I'm only a small-time customer, a minority, to him.

And these? I asked him, pointing to a basket brimful with white cloves of garlic. "They are imported from China too," he said. "China goods are everywhere," he added, "there is no avoiding them. They can produce anything under the sun."

Alamak, garlic and onions are the mainstays of our culinary heritage. How can we not use them in our cooking? If these are tainted as well, what alternatives do we have? If I can find garlic and onions that have been grown here in Malaysia, I will surely change my buying habits.

But really, even if there are local alternatives to China imports, what assurance do we have that the local farmers have not been tempted to overly-use fertilisers in their farms? What assurance do we have that slaughtered fresh meat in the markets do not come from animals that have been overly-fed with chemicals to fatten them up? We do not.

For now, I guess that I will just have to be more judicious with my selection of foodstuff. At least, my friendly stall owner had been honest and forthright with me!

Speaking of food scandals from China, I've been reading today that the latest health concern there is the sale of expired and tainted meat.

The companies in China most affected by this food safety scare are McDonald's and KFC. On Sunday, Dragon TV from Shanghai exposed a processed meat supplier that sold expired beef and chicken.

The television station said their undercover reporter with a hidden camera was able to film employees at Husi Food Co Ltd, a subsidiary company of OSI Group of Aurora, Illinois, United States, re-using meat that had fallen onto the factory floor, mixing "expired" meat with fresher cuts and also lying to inspectors from McDonald's.

It was claimed that Husi re-packaged the stale beef and chicken, and labelled them with new expiration dates before selling them to the McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut restaurant chains. Both McDonald's and KFC said that they have immediately stopped using meat from this unscrupulous supplier.

So now you know... famous fast food chains, widely facing criticisms for hawking unhealthy and non-nutritious food, themselves becoming victims in food safety scandals, especially when suppliers see an opportunity to make more money! What more your neighbourhood restaurant and hawkers?!

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