Saturday, September 20, 2008

We Are What We Eat ... Really?

The milk scandal in China is brewing and many people are feeling the heat.

The milk powder made by Sanlu was contaminated by chemical melamine and many are shocked and angry that innocent infants have fallen victims of such criminal negligence. Sanlu's apologies could pacify no one.

The turbulence caused a chain of reactions in the food industries. More dairy products have been pulled off the selves after the China government found that they too were contaminated with the same chemical. Starbucks in China decided to stop serving drinks with milk.

Outside China, Singapore suspended sale of milk products from China and a Japanese food maker is recalling China-made snacks which contain the contaminated milk from China. Such a reaction is totally understandable, especially in Japan, as there has been a series of food scares hitting the Japan food industries.

Recently, Japan was greatly disturbed by the incidents on the China-made poisoned dumplings and pesticide-laced rice. Two days ago, the Japanese Farm Minister resigned in the midst of spiraling scandals. In the latest news today, police in Japan suspected China-made bean paste may have been poison-laced causing 2 to fall ill.

I am feeling
spookier as the 'Made In China' scandals snowball. Whenever I browsed around our supermarkets, I could still find many China-made food items. I reminded myself to stay objective and not to label all of them as unsafe. The fact that the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) of Singapore allow them to be sold here, they must be OK.

Wait a minute.. AVA have just ordered Yili brand iced yogurt and Dutch Lady strawberry flavored milk to be removed from the shelves after testing found melamine in some samples. They have obviously reacted to the milk scandal and started testing imported dairy products. That means, AVA was unaware of the contamination in the first place !

It seems to me that their measures are
reactive instead of preventive. Does that mean that there is a great chance that those products left on the shelves are questionable too?

I am being paranoid, perhaps.

I can appreciate that it's impossible for AVA to thoroughly check every imported food item. They can only do sample checks and some food items of unsatisfactory quality may have slipped into Singapore. That means... some of our food, ESPECIALLY those made in China, could be unsafe.

I am being paranoid.

I am sure if any of those items on the shelves are unsafe, the hospitals would have discovered a victim or two. But they have not. However, some of these chemicals may take years before our bodies begin to complain. By then, it would have been too late. Have we all been eating unsafe food and only to realize decades later ?

I am being paranoid, undoubtedly.

If China-made food items are likely to be unsafe, I could always switch to alternative sources. Then I remember the notorious 'mad cow' disease that contaminated dairy products in countries such as UK and Japan. Looks like, food made 'outside' China may not be safe too.

I am beyond paranoid now.

We are what we eat. Or are we? To begin with, we are not even sure what we are popping into our mouths. We are no longer so sure...

We think we are what we eat.


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