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01.12.2004 08:00:00 GMT
Media exposure forces government to respond to hair-into-soy sauce scandal
Shanghai. (Interfax-China) - The Chinese government has shown an unusually high level of concern as a result of a bold media exposure towards a scandal in which human hair was used to make soy sauce. The government has now ordered an immediate inspection of all domestic food seasoning plants before the end of January.
China Central Television (CCTV), the state television station, first raised public worries over the quality of domestic soy sauce by uncovering a substandard workshop in central China's Hubei Province, where piles of waste human hair were found. The hairs were treated in special containers to distill amino acid, the most common substance contained in soybean sauce.
Human hair is rich in protein content, just like soybean, wheat and bran, the conventional and legally accepted raw ingredients for the production of soy sauce.
The plant, describing itself as a bioengineering company, made around 100,000 tons of amino acid daily, in either syrup or powder form, making it easier for delivery, plant workers said. They were then distributed to diluting plants in or near the province, where it was diluted with approximately ten times water, was then made into ready-for-use soy sauce and was bottled or packaged.
In one such plant shown on the CCTV program, more chemical additives were poured into the amino acid syrup and heated and stirred continuously by a worker.
The additives include one whole bag of solid hydroxide to make the sauce taste better, and bottles of hydrochloric acid to balance the acid and alkali content in the mixture in order to make it safer for human consumption. Both additives were for industrial use only, according to their packaging.
By producing soy sauce from such raw materials, the producers were said able to cut costs by half. Workers employed at the plants, however, never bought soy sauce marked as "blended" on the packaging, because that usually meant that human hair was the basic material in the sauce.
Soy sauce made from human hair is not the first low-quality food product exposed by state television, which launched a program called "Weekly Quality Report" around half a year ago. The program, which conducts investigations into the low quality of some of China's most common food products, has frequently ruined the public appetite.
In related news the Beijing Star Daily reported the Beijing government has begun closer monitoring and supervision of 14 kinds of foods, including rice, meat, vegetables, bottled water, dairy products and cooking oil due to fears of large-scale food-poisoning cases.