Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on November 3, 2008
With worries growing about melamine spreading from milk to eggs to other parts of the food supply, Minister Sun Zhengcai is doing his best to put an upbeat spin on things. Yes, Wal-Mart has yanked eggs from the shelves of its Chinese stores and Hong Kong officials have found melamine in eggs from China, Sun told Xinhua, but don’t worry. Xinhua paraphrases the minister saying the current scandal is just an “individual case.”
Depends on what you mean by “individual,” I guess. If “individual” means “lots and lots of cases,” then yes, Xinhua is on to something. Xinhua itself reports that a significant amount of animal feed fails to meet the ministry’s own standards. That’s a problem since once the melamine is in the feed, it goes into the chickens and then goes into the eggs. “According to official figures,” the official news agency reports, “in recent 22,700 batches of feedstuff quality check on melamine, 97.61 percent were found up to standard.” Reuters reporter Emma Graham-Harrison helpfully points out the problem with the official line: “In a country as vast as China, which consumes billions of animals a year, if 2 percent of feed is tainted nationwide it could translate into significant amounts of contaminated food.”
Once again, this scandal illustrates the price China pays for restricting press freedom. Just how pervasive are the problems and is the Agriculture Ministry up to the task of addressing them? Who knows. Instead of getting answers, we get Xinhua telling us this is an individual case.