It’s not just Russia who takes the food safety of its otherwise drunken, dying-at-the-age-of-forty, mafia-befuddled citizenry seriously. China Food Quality, essential reading for anybody who wants to keep up to date with all the latest melamine-in-milk-related scandals, is reporting today that China’s snappily named General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) has announced an immediate suspension of imports of a range of Taiwanese foodstuffs. The Taiwanese authorities had in recent days told AQSIQ that some manufacturers had been adding banned, non-food-quality phthalates to clouding agents that then went on to contaminate all kinds of products down the line.
The affected products consist of sports drinks, fruit juices, tea drinks, fruit purees, jams, jellies... Those that can’t provide a test certificate to prove they don’t contain the banned phthalates will be denied entry to the PRC. This is, of course, a far more subtle and justified response than the Russians’ blanket ban on anything green or red that comes from the EU, which is patently just protectionism in a different guise. It seems that almost half a million bottles of very specific brands have been targeted and removed from the shelves.
But why on earth would you want to add phthalates to food anyway? It seems to be down to price: they’re cheaper than palm oil and citrus fruit extracts, but produce the characteristic ‘cloudy’ quality associated with so many East Asian drinks products. I’ve probably drunk the bloody stuff myself, come to think of it - I’ve always been partial to those slightly cloudy, sweet fruit juice thingies, especially on a roasting hot, Chinese summer’s day.