I stopped buying Made-in-China food products when possible. This is the sad truth, it is not always possible to not buy Made in China (MIC). Our local Asian market Lim’s Garden stocks many different brands of MIC noodles, soy sauce, salted veggies and garlic. The grown-in-China garlic is about NZ$3.99 per kg. The grown-in-NZ garlic is about $13 per kg. What a world of difference. The Chinese garlic has to travel from some unknown patch in Chinese soil, go in a shipping vessel, to land in NZ shores. Why is it still so much cheaper? Because the poor Chinese farmer does not have control over his sale price. He just hands over his garlic crop to a middle man who ships in off for a little or fat profit, whichever we chose to believe. Poor Chinese farmer probably lives in a harsh condition, doing his utmost best to keep farming the way he knows best. My not buying his garlic does not help either.
Fonterra's half sin
NZ’s biggest export company Fonterra is suffering some bad press at the moment. Products made by its Chinese partner Shijiazhuang Sanlu Group Co Ltd, is reportedly found to contain melamine (an industrial additive, used in among others, as a base for plates and cups that don’t break).
According to Prime Minister Helen Clark (PM): New Zealand officials at Fonterra have been aware of the contamination since mid-August, despite a full public recall only being initiated 2nd week of September 2008.
Fonterra, according to the PM, could not recall the product as local authorities in China would not do it. (Clark told TV One on the Breakfast show on Sept 15, 2008).
This won’ be the first time the Chinese are using industrial ingredients in food. Remember those stories about human meat in Chinese buns or cat or dog meat in Chinese buns?
In 2007, a pet food recall was initiated by Menu Foods and other pet food manufacturers who had found their products had been contaminated and caused serious illnesses or deaths in some of the animals that had eaten them. The pet food was imported from a manufacturer in China, Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology. The practice of adding "melamine scrap" to animal feed is reported to be widespread in China. (Source: Wiki). What is it about the Chinese businessmen who choose such an atrocious way to make a little more profit?
Made in Thailand, Japan
My precaution? I stopped buying MIC food. I only buy Made-in-Thailand (MIT) noodles (I have no idea if their food standards are better), MIT tapiaco starch, rice flour and glutinous rice flour. I buy Made-in-Taiwan salted lettuce (it has an ISO stamp, not that that’s an endorsement of hygiene or food standards.). I buy Made-in-Japan Kikoman soy sauce, miso and Made-in-Malaysia’s Yeo salted beans. I stopped buying Chinese dried dates. I was told the Chinese coloured their version with colouring to make them brighter looking.
It is a funny feeling for me, given that I grew up eating MIC products. I used to love Ma Ling luncheon, or Ma Ling salted fish with black beans. I grew up eating MIC salted radish, lettuce and fermented bean curd. Now, I don’t.
Have I changed? Or has China changed? I don’t know, but I won’t take any chances.