Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Lesson Never Learnt

Melamine has kept AVA very busy.

So far, "Yi Li Choice Dairy Fruit Bar", "Dutch Lady Strawberry Milk" and the much loved "While Rabbit Creamy Candy" have been found to be contaminated with melamine. AVA is still feverishly checking. The problem is, there are so many food items to test. The easy suspects are dairy products made in China. Other than those, it is harder to isolate food products which might have used contaminated ingredients from China.

I am expecting AVA to announce more findings of contaminated food. Be prepared to dump some of your favorite snacks from your cabinets. It depends on who you listen to, there are already several unofficial 'not to eat' lists out there. It is your choice to play safe, play dumb or play commonsense.

What is this melamine thing, anyway?

I am not about to go into any chemistry discussion here (not that I know how). Briefly, it is a chemical substance used to make melamine resins, a main constituents in plastics. Melamine is not known to be associated with anything edible other than being made into kitchen wares to contain food.

I was looking for children melamine wares years ago and that was the first time I really noticed 'melamine'. Such wares are commonly available in shops and they are durable, affordable though not microwavable.

Actually, about a year ago, there was a massive recall of pet food in the US and Europe due to melamine contamination. Hundreds of dogs and cats were reported to have fallen sick or died due to kidney failure. The pet food industry suffered losses in the millions after recalling more than 100 brands of products.

So, where was the source of the pet food contamination?.. Well, good guess! China, of course.

The pet food incident has raised the possibility of melamine contamination in the human food supply both in China and abroad. Unfortunately, a year on, it is clear that no lessons were learned.

Many people are asking the big WHY? How could something of that scale be wrapped up for so long? Why wasn't the pet food incident a good enough warning? Was it because it was not disastrous enough to wake up someone? Now that we know about the milk contamination, is anyone going to learn from it? Will China food be safer going forward?...

I can go on asking...

Somehow, I am not at all confident that this episode is going to change the 'food scare landscape' in China significantly. There is just too much greed and ignorance to help China flourish in the 'innovative but deadly' food business.

It is going to take everyone a little while... after that... life goes on and I will probably see you chew that White Rabbit Candy again.

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