Wednesday, November 29, 2006

News from Hong Kong--don't eat the freshwater fish or the eggs

The big news here now is about a couple of food safety scares that came right on top of each other. Some red yolk eggs from the mainland have been found with Sudan Red dye, and some freshwater fish were found with Malachite Green. Both are suspected to be carcinogenic. Animal tests for either being carcinogenic have been inconclusive. Which I interpret to mean that a difference was found, but at a level that could be explained by random fluctuation, so that it is hard to know whether the difference is real. No human cases are known.

Apparently, many people on the mainland believe that an egg is healthier if the yolk is red. So one imagines that Red Sudan dye was injected into the eggs to make them sell at a higher price. Perhaps it is to make a non-red yolk look red, or a red yolk look redder.

Also, malachite green was found in a high proportion of freshwater fish from the mainland. This is probably due to pollution. Malachite green used to be used as a kind of antibiotic for fish. It's apparently banned in China and the US.

Well, it has really hurt business here. And it has hurt fisheries in Guangdong province on the mainland (right next to Hong Kong). The fisheries have stopped exports. The fish merchants here are turning to other goods.

The thing is, the level of the contaminants has been very low, and it's necessarily clear that it is dangerous, or if it is, at what levels. Still, people are playing it safe.

One fun quote is some health official saying not to panic--that the majority of food is still safe. I should hope so. Can you imagine it if over 50% of all food available is unsafe?!