China has been plagued by a series of food scares in recent years, many of them involving toxins found in everyday items because of poor enforcement of regulations.
Food scares on menu
China has been plagued by a series of food scares in recent years, many of them involving toxins found in everyday items because of poor enforcement of regulations. One of the worst incidents came in 2008 and led to at least six babies dying and hundreds of thousands of others falling ill because of contaminated milk powder. A substance called melamine, used to make fertiliser and plastics, had been added to increase the apparent protein content of the milk, but it caused kidney problems to those who ingested it. Two men were executed this year for their role in the scandal.
Chinese food and pharmaceutical exports have also been involved in a series of scandals. In 2006, dozens of people died in Panama from Chinese cough syrup contaminated with diethylene glycol, a substance used in engine coolants. Late that year, 5,000 ducks were killed in China after a carcinogenic dye was fed by farmers to their birds to make the eggs appear fresher. More than a dozen dogs and cats in North America died in 2007 after eating Chinese pet food contaminated with melamine, and scores of pet food brands issued recall notices.
And in late 2008, eggs imported into Hong Kong from China were found to be contaminated with melamine. Other food scares in Hong Kong, which sources 80 per cent of its food from the mainland, have included pesticides being found in green vegetables, and oilfish, which is inedible, being sold as cod. This year, the sale of cowpeas from Hainan province in the south of China was banned in some parts of the country after a toxic pesticide called isocarbophos was discovered in samples. Isocarbophos had been used because of its low cost.