Tainted milk. Poisoned milk. Radioactive spinach ((Which, actually is safe to eat, but still…)). Contaminated mantou. Fake wine. Additive-addled pork. Genetically-terrifying strawberries ((I saw a report on this on CCTV a month or so ago that has put me off the things entirely, but I can’t seem to find a link now.)). Heavy-metal rice. And most of that just in the past few weeks. It seems that even as food prices continue to rise, the quality is going down the tubes. Or at least, we’re finally learning what kind of food we’re paying so much money for. In the wake of today’s news about the contaminated mantou (steamed buns) and the ongoing story of the poisoned milk in Gansu, here are some selected ((Yes, I selected them. No, they’re probably not representative of the entirety of China. That said, I chose them more or less randomly, and translated every single one that I read save really short or repetitive ones, and one which contained some really poetic language I had no idea how to translate.)) netizen comments on food in China.
It’s worth noting these comments are all from Sina Weibo, not Twitter, which means they’re accessible within China, and that the harsher comments may have been deleted by Sina’s censors.
“After the [poisoned milk], there came mantou and bread [contamination]…how am I supposed to buy food after this?” ((It’s worth noting that there are tons of comments like this; I’ve just translated this one to represent them, but I came across a lot more.))
“Even little children know that food has an expiration date, do they really mean to suggest that law enforcement officials [responsible for inspecting the food safety at these factories] didn’t discover [that expired mantou was being used to make more mantou]? That’s impossible! “
“There’s no big scandal here, don’t be alarmist. Isn’t this just inserting some dye for color? Isn’t it just putting expired mantou back to work? What is that, it’s no big deal…As a great Chinese citizen, as the descendants of Yan Di and Huang Di, as the Chinese who have successfully made it to this point, you’re not even willing to eat this, and you’re not ashamed?”
“Take the people from the [relevant] government department out and shoot them. Why is it always the media that discovers this stuff first?”
“Any food may have something added to it, so why aren’t the higher-level leaders nervous? They think that of course the common people must eat from the same special, environmentally protected stock that they do. From Sanlu ((The guys who brought you melamine-milk)) to Shuanghui ((The guys who brought you pork with illegal additives)) to mantou ((There is a clever play on words in the Chinese text here, but I can’t think of a good way to translate the joke into English)), what high-level official has been investigated or forced to resign? The common people are forced to determine for themselves whether even basic foods and drinks are poisoned or not. Leaders of the food safety [department], have you no sense of shame? If those food inspection officials who shirked their duty aren’t executed, the problem of contaminated food will never disappear.”
“If sea cucumber or abalone was contaminated, that would be one thing; you could just not eat it. But if even bread and steamed buns have problems, what can we do? Actually, we’re a little strong; even in this kind of environment we can subsist. We have nothing to fear from 2012, whatever happens, it won’t be any worse than things are now.”
“[It turns out that] at the apocalypse, it is humans who will destroy themselves.”
“China itself is a society of mutual poisoning, a society of mutual pain-infliction. You add some [poison] to the milk, I put sweet additives into expired mantou, he puts additives into the food he feeds his pigs, oil, crab, rice, duck eggs…even if the milk manufacturers don’t drink milk, they eat mantou. Even if the mantou makers don’t eat mantou, they eat pork. Even if the pork farmers don’t eat pork, they drink milk. In the end, we’re just hurting ourselves. The nation is in peril, inviting ridicule and shame. “
“[With regards to the mantou contamination], I feel this is abnormal, [but] but it reflects a normal phenomenon in the Chinese food industry. The moral logic in the Chinese food industry is that as long as the consumer doesn’t immediately die of the poison, it’s acceptable to pursue the maximization of material gains by any and all means available. [Past examples of this] seem to include: pickled veggies, chicken feet, salted meat, sausages, dumplings, milk powder…”
There really are virtually no positive comments about this — unsurprisingly, people don’t like eating expired garbage or drinking poison — but even I was surprised by some of the really harsh ones. I’m not sure food in China is any less safe today than it was five years ago; in fact, if anything, I’m inclined to suspect it’s actually safer. But the fact that we’re hearing about it (CCTV is obviously on the hunt, and good on ’em for it!) and the confidence in the government (which seems to be low and ever-dropping) have combined to create a food consumer market that views everything they hear with skepticism. So far, it’s led to mostly angry microblog posts and a run on iodized salt (even though it’s totally useless and the government had been saying that). Clearly, it’s a contentious issue, though, and if these scandals keep popping up, one wonders if the government will consider picking a high-level sacrificial lamb or two to take the fall.