11/25/2016, 17.21
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No fresh or live fish in Beijing might signal fresh food safety scandals

Supermarket fish tanks are emptied. The China Food and Drug Administration plans inspections to check food safety. Food poisoning and safety issues boost fears among ordinary Chinese.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Most supermarkets in Beijing are selling only frozen fish fearing a government food safety crackdown and possible fines.

In China’s Taoist-influenced culture, animals must be alive until they are killed and cooked so that their vital energies can pass to the eater’s body. It is thus very common to buy live fish to kill at home before cooking, or during cooking.

Supermarkets, shops and restaurants have fish tanks with live carp, sea bass, lobster, sole, etc. Customers can pick the fish of their choice and the shopkeeper or waiter fishes it out right there and then.

In the past few day however, fish tanks in many Beijing supermarkets have been empty, Caixin magazine, a business publication, reported online.

Sixteen out of 20 supermarkets in one city's district did not have any stock of live fish. In some places, customers were told that fish tanks were being sterilised, but no date was given for a return of fresh fish sales.

The reason for the disappearance of such an important part of the Chinese diet is the fact that the China Food and Drug Administration plans to inspect aquatic products at wholesale markets, supermarkets and restaurants in 12 mainland cities, including Beijing.

Food safety concerns are widespread in China where not a month goes by without new revelations about unsafe meat, fish, desserts, or water.

For example, earlier this month, Jiangsu provincial authorities suspended exports of hairy crabs after finding high levels of carcinogens in some of them.

In Hong Kong, the local food safety watchdog found dioxin poisoning in hairy crabs sourced from the mainland.

In 2010, the authorities in Shanghang county, Fujian province, paid farmers for more than 1,000 tonnes of fish after a toxic mine leak in the Tingjiang River to stop them from being sold to consumers.  Then they destroyed the fish.

However, China’s worst food safety scandal in the recent history involved baby formula, which was mixed with melamine to give it the appearance of higher protein content. As a result of the tampering, hundreds of thousands of children got sick, and eight died.

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