Food Safety Scandals Continue Despite Government Crackdown Efforts

China continues to earn scary food safety headlines. This week, police in northwest China are blaming 11 deaths and 120 illnesses on vinegar contaminated with antifreeze.

According to official Chinese media, the tainted vinegar was consumed at a Ramadan meal in Sangzhu, after a day of fasting. Authorities believe the vinegar was stored in containers that used to hold highly toxic antifreeze.

A six-year-old is among the dead and as many as six people are still hospitalized four days after consuming the chemicals, according to Xinhua.

The drumbeat of food safety scandals has continued steadily over the past few years, especially after food issues grabbed the spotlight in the infamous melamine catastrophe, which sickened 300,000 and killed six infants.

Just in the last few months 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–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.

Exploding watermelons and glow-in-the-dark pork scandals, both caused by excessive chemical use, grabbed international media headlines as well.

Chinese authorities say 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 as part of the latest crackdown, which led to 2,000 arrests and 5,000 business shutdowns.

China’s Ministry of Health says 45 people died from food poisoning, mostly from toxic chemicals, in the first six months of 2011.