China food Scares and our “Just Say No! (To China)” Policy
As a father of two, I’ve been very concerned about the endless string of food scares this year.
Perhaps overreacting, perhaps not, we have in any case successfully initiated a “Just Say No! (To China)” policy in our house, which has been in place since September.
- No Directly imported Chinese foodstuffs of any kind.
- Try to avoid Japanese food which contain Chinese products (difficult but not impossible).
- No Chinese toys for Julia and Hana (tricky, but possible).
- Support local Japanese Producers
There was the big Frozen Gyoza (Chinese fried dumplings) scare. This was the one which really highlighted the whole incident for most people living in the blissfully, coddled sterilised safety of Japan’s sanitarily obsessed infrastructure and culture.
I can’t recommend these, no matter how crispy.
One after the other, Chinese products were removed from shelves. At one point, sales of Chinese frozen produce dipped to below 30% of the typical amount sold at any time.
Food poisoning in a number of families were traced back to imported Chinese dumplings, which were found to contain pesticides banned in Japan.
The Chinese government’s reaction to the problem did not help matters. They insisted that the pesticide must have been deliberately introduced into the packaging after the packages left China, perhaps by injection, in order to stimulate domestic (Japanese) produce, which has the reputation of being expensive.
While the question as to whether indeed the contaminants entered the packaging in China or not was still unanswered, this unlikely scenario was still not utterly impossible.
The workers of the affected company which was unable to sell their produce to Japan, recieved “gifts” of the food to take home to their families and friends.
I have an old proverb I’ve just coined for this blog entry, which feels especially appropriate here:
“With absolute stupidity comes absolute inevitability. “
The rest, as they say, is history and over 3000 cases of acute food poisoning.
Had the food scares ended there, things might have settled down more quickly, but unfortunately, in mid October, there was a contaminated green beans scare making people even more wary of discounted produce.
There’s more than just fibre
in these string beans!
But as a father both of these pale into insignificance compared the the baby milk powder scares.
Believe it or not, this child
is suffering from malnutrition
The “original” 2004 fake baby milk power scandal in China where baby milk powder was found to have no nutritional value since babies were basically drinking talcum power mixed with water was followed spectacularly this September by the kidney stone causing melamine contaminated baby powder, which resulted in over 13,000 cases of illness in babies.
Worse, the contamination was found in 10% of Chinese produced milk products, including fresh milk, ice-cream, yoghurt and Cheese. Blanket bans on Chinese dairy products are currently in force worldwide.
Of course, since food for the Chinese is akin to a religious belief, the Chinese government took great umbrage at this outrage, which stereotypically cemented the already strongly held belief among the Japanese that China is a country willfully unconcerned with the health of its populace.
China has perhaps been unfairly portrayed as a nation of poor hygiene and blissfully unconcerned about food contamination. This fortifies the notion among the Japanese that China itself is somehow dirty and contaminated. One of the best quotes ever is from Anthony Bourdain (2006 Salon interview) where he stated culinary xenophobia is “something kind of racist”
“Fear of dirt is often indistinguishable from the fear of unnamed dirty people.”
Japan’s fear of Chinese food (probably valid) simply goes to strengthening their opinions regarding the Chinese people themselves, and while I do NOT condone racism or even undue stereotyping, I fear that the Chinese government could do far more that it is to improve its image abroad.
Personally, we intend to keep up our private embargo for as long as we can and encourage anyone who takes the safety of their family seriously to do the same.
- Apology for the long absence (ご無沙汰すみません “Go-busata sumimasen”, as they sey in Japan).
One month without a blog post… Must be getting into my old habits of procrastinating too much, again…
I promise it won’t happen again, for a while… if I’m good.