Want Blood and Feathers With That?

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Take dried pigs blood, mix in some chicken feathers. The result is a bogus “silkworm chrysalis amino acid compound,” and pride of first mention in a list of China’s ten biggest fake food cases last year. A state agency announced the stomach churners earlier this week. (There’s a Chinese-only version here). It must have been hard to narrow them down to just 10, but they came up with some stunners. There was old leather cooked into gelatin, noodles made with borax and fish dried with insecticide. If there was one bright spot it was that the state office that published the list, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, must at least see the value of highlighting these nauseating cases.

A recent report by the Asian Development Bank estimates that 300 million Chinese come down with some sort of food-borne disease annually, and the medical care costs and productivity loses can run as high as $14 billion. The study recommends that the government come up with a comprehensive “basic food law” that covers standards from farm to final sale, and then give enforcement responsibility to a single government agency. Sounds like what the U.S. launched in 1906 with the Food and Drugs Act. Of course it took the public outcry triggered by Upton Sinclair’s shocking novel The Jungle to finally achieve that. Somehow I think it will take more than an annual top-ten list to prompt comprehensive changes in China.