China’s latest food safety crackdown, which focused on the rampant use of illegal and often dangerous food additives, resulted in 2,000 arrests and 4,900 business shut downs, official state media announced last week.
Since April, authorities have inspected nearly 6 million food or additive manufacturers and catering businesses, according to an update issued by the Food Safety Commission, which operates under the State Council. The campaign is the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at quelling widespread distrust of food production in China.
In May, Chinese authorities announced they resolved more than 1,000 severe food safety cases so far in 2011, including hundreds of arrests.
In a country with an enormous food sector, and limited transparency, it’s difficult to assess the overall impact of the waves of enforcement, but the campaigns have certainly not kept food safety from the headlines.
In the past few months alone, hundreds have been seriously sickened by clenbuterol-tainted pork, over a dozen noodle makers were ordered to stop production because they were using ink, industrial dyes and paraffin wax as ingredients, and 16 tons of pork were pulled from the marketplace for containing sodium borate, a chemical that seemingly transforms cheap pork into darker, higher-value “beef.”
Chinese officials also arrested 12 people for involvement in a 40-ton bean sprout debacle, in which farmers were using sodium nitrite (a known carcinogen), urea, antibiotics and a plant hormone called 6-benzaledenine to make the sprouts grow faster and look shinier.
In recent weeks, seemingly fantastic exploding watermelons and glow-in-the-dark pork scandals have garnered international media attention as well, further complicating China’s effort to boost consumer confidence.
According to the latest update, police have investigated 1,200 criminal cases concerning “the illegal adding of non-edible materials in food” and destroyed key elements of black market food production.
The statement said government agencies across the country will “continue the fight against irregularities to safeguard food” and severely punish violators.