China Shuts Down 180 Factories Using Illegal Chemicals In Food

China has announced via its state media that 180 factories have been closed for using illegal and dangerous products in food. From CNN:

Formaldehyde, illegal dyes, and industrial wax were found being used to make candy, pickles, crackers and seafood, it said, citing Han Yi, an official with the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, which is responsible for food safety.

“These are not isolated cases,” Han, director of the administration’s quality control and inspection department, was quoted as saying.

China says that the factories were mostly small, unlicensed food plants with less than 10 employees. The state media also said that 75% of China’s 1 million food plants are “are small and privately owned.” Hey, everyone, China just learned about something we call “PR.” Sadly, they couldn’t keep this little tidbit of stomach-churning news out of the New York Times:

For instance, in 2005, officials in south China found a company repackaging food waste and shipping it to 10 other regions. And just last week, officials said a company in Anhui province, not far from Shanghai, was selling a two-year-old rice dumpling mix as fresh, according to the state-controlled media.

China shuts 180 food factories for using illegal chemicals [CNN]
In Food Safety Crackdown, China Closes 180 Plants [NYT]
(Photo: Getty)

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  1. kimsama says:

    Yum, is that zasai!? Or zha cai, whatever. Oh please don’t tell me they’re poisoning that now (it would really cramp my pickle style).

  2. Amarain824 says:

    As long as I can get Hello Panda creme cookies from the Japanese store, I am ok. I can leave the Chinese Poky…it will be ok.

  3. Red_Eye says:

    Well it seems pretty simple for me. If we continue to demand to pay sweat shop prices, don’t be surprised when some sweat gets in the food..

  4. DingoDigger says:

    As shocking as this may sound, a lot of Chinese items sold in the United States are marked for Export Quality and presumably meet higher standards. Most of the people being poisoned by this sort of thing … are other Chinese people.

  5. Thrust says:

    Hmmm… Does this make chinese food better or worse than McDonalds? Fresh McNuggets my ass, they’d been there for an hour…

  6. mkechaz says:

    Any product from China need to have a very large Mr Yuk tag on it with a disclaimer on the reverse stating “This product was produced in whole or in part with material that originated in China. Therefore, the consumer of this product should not have any expectations of safety. This product can cause death, sickness, birth defects and any other malady known since the beginning of human existence.”

    Mr Yuk: [www.asmalldoseof.org]

  7. MalichiDemonos says:

    Or so they say the closed these factories.

  8. etinterrapax says:

    I’m beginning to think that the argument that this is capitalism is specious. Okay, so there is market demand for cheap food. But cheap or not, we’re being forced to accept unsafe food products so that our government can keep doing business with China. It is appalling that we’re getting any food product from a country that far away that has inadequate cold storage. I don’t really believe that goods for export are of significantly higher quality than those for domestic use. We need to bring our food production back here immediately. A nation in which a majority of adults are overweight or obese can probably absorb some increase in food costs for safety’s sake.

  9. Wasabe says:

    They shut down factories using illegal chemicals in food? There have got to be easier ways of closing down factories than by poisoning the food there :)

  10. @etinterrapax: “I’m beginning to think that the argument that this is capitalism is specious. Okay, so there is market demand for cheap food. But cheap or not, we’re being forced to accept unsafe food products so that our government can keep doing business with China.”

    I think a big part of the problem is that capitalism assumes transparency so that consumers can make informed choices. In today’s economy, it’s hard as hell to know exactly where your stuff is coming from, and the population is so LARGE that even if *I* find out all the peas from factory X are tainted and tell everyone in my town, how is someone in California going to get that important reputational evidence from me?

    The internet helps, but …. lack of transparency is a major, crippling issue for a ostensibly-free market.

  11. kimsama says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: I couldn’t agree more. It’s market failure, plain and simple. Market failure requires regulation, even in a capitalist system.

  12. FMulder says:

    When profit is valued over ethics, the push is going to be towards maximizing that profit with only enough ‘food safety’ so as to not risk profit loss. If they can see getting away with it, they’ll do it.

  13. etinterrapax says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: ITA, and I think there’s a major problem with China in that we’re doing business in a country without a free press. The media here, while certainly far from faultless, are a check against these kinds of abuses when they can investigate. When production is here, it’s very difficult to keep this sort of thing a secret. In China, though, easy-peasy.

  14. andrewsmash says:

    To me, this is a natural extension of the corporate model that puts stock value above all. When a company is willing to do anything to show maximum profits, this is what happens. We need to punish the importers and distributors as much as the manufacturers so that it is no longer profitable (or even better, it reduces profits) to save a few pennies per item. That would increase quality control pretty quickly

  15. artki says:

    From the NYT article.
    > regulators in China said … inspectors had uncovered more than 23,000 food safety violations.

    23,000. remember that number.

    > The nationwide crackdown, which began in December, …

    ok, working on it for 6 months.

    > Regulators said 33,000 law enforcement officials combed the nation …

    Wow. 33,000 inspectors working for 6 months found 23,000 violations. That’s 10 inspectors to find 7 violations! And it took them SIX MONTHS to do it.

    We are not seeing even 1% of the real problem.