Research article: Economically motivated food fraud and adulteration in China: An analysis based on 1553 media reports by Wenjing Zhang, Jianhong Xue
- The authors studied 1553 media reports in China for this research.
Why using media reports?
In general, people pay more attention to acute food-borne illnesses that are severe and requires immediate medical treatment. However, most illnesses caused by consumption of adulterated food have few symptoms and only take effect after a long period of time. Also, in this case of economically motivated adulterations (EMA), wrongful acts are intentional and designed to evade investigation. As such, adulterated food-borne illnesses are often underreported to authorities.
In addition, previous literature suggests that many adulteration incidents and scandals in China were initially discovered by media reports rather than official surveillance.
Reflection: this seems to be the same case in Vietnam. Government efforts to QC the supply chain are usually sporadic and there is little communication with consumers about the findings. The issue is made public and contentious by media coverage and news agency rather than government bodies.
Food for thought: Power of the masses? The importance of information dissemination?
- Results and discussion:
- Regional distribution: Regions with higher level of industrialization and urbanization has the highest number of cases while least developed areas have the least number of cases (fig.1)
- Types of adulteration: There are 8 types of food fraud defined by EMA database, and the percentage of these types from media reports. Intentional distribution of contaminated food and Artificial Enhancement are the top leading types (table 2&3)
- Food involved: most commonly adulterated food is Animal Foods (37.8%), followed by grain-based food (22.7%) and drink/beverages (12.8%). Research includes further breakdown of cases into sub food category.
- Adulterants: top adulterants are additives (35.9%) including forbidden additives (23.2) and food additives, followed by foreign substances (11.2). the purposes of using these substances as adulterants were either to replace legally allowed additives to save costs (e.g., formaldehyde, nitrite and DEHP), to change color, appearance, or texture of foods (e.g., the uses of sulfur dioxide, Sudan red, fluorescent bleacher, DEHP, alum, talcum powder), or to keep counterfeit foods or adulteration from detection (e.g., the use of melamine and beef extract).
- Food source:
Food for thought: What about VN? What are the most commonly adulterated food and how much do they affect? How do they get adulterated? Where do these things happen?