Shrimp tricks in China


At the end of March, a vender who worked for more than 10 years in the aquatic products trade informed Shangdong Business Daily that the most part of shrimps sold in the markets of Jinan are wrapped in an icy coat to preserve their freshness. But before being wrapped in ice, he said, they are soaked in chemicals in order to double their weight. 

Recently, a journalist from the Qingdao Business Daily did some research in a local seafood market and discovered that several stalls were selling this type of chemically soaked shrimps. A wholesaler told the journalist what happens behind the scenes: the shrimps are also soaked in sodium hydroxide, a solution which is common within the industrial sector.  

In light of this information, it’s not difficult to explain why quick-frozen shrimps not only lose a lot of weight once they start defrosting, but also emanate a strange smell when they are cooked. According to Zhang Shaofa, a researcher at Qingdao Fishery Technology Popularization station, “These shrimps not only are soaked in caustic soda, but also in a formaldehyde solution. The shrimps are firstly soaked in the formaldehyde solution, which sterilizes them and preserves their freshness, and then in caustic soda. This is how they change shape in a single shake; becoming poisonous shrimps.” 

If consumed over a long period, shrimps soaked in chemicals can be extremely harmful to human health. Qingdao Evening News pointed out that inhaling small quantities of formaldehyde can cause slow poisoning as well as diseases such as dermatosis. Long-term inhalation is likely to affect health severely.  

Apart from quick-frozen shrimps; dried shrimps and other snacks which are regular accompaniments of alcoholic beverages, have been tested and found to contain excessive levels of formaldehyde.  

When consumers buy quick-frozen shrimps wrapped in an “icy coat”, they might think that, when the shrimps defrost, at best they will lose some liang (50 grams). Or they might reassure themselves with the thought that, once the icy coat melts, at least the inside of the shrimps will be “real”. However, as early as 2006, ChinaNews published a similar investigative report, revealing that starch and konjac flour were the main ingredients of the “artificial shrimps” that flood Beijing’s budget hotpot market. 

This year, during the National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress, State Council vice premier Wang Qishan, brought up the subject of food safety issues and said he felt “embarrassed”. Instead of feeling embarrassed, the government should implement rigorous supervision measures within the food safety field.