Category Archives: Food

China – Under The Hood: Is there really a market for gluten-free food products in China?

A commercial oatmeal producer in Ireland recently sought my opinion regarding China market potential for gluten-free food products.

Gluten-free food China

Before answering, in addition to our own secondary research, I reached out to four China and Hong food procurement experts whose inputs I attach weight to: The procurement directors of both the largest food retailer in the province of Zhejiang and a leading online food platform in China, as well as an established Irish food importer in Hong Kong, and the procurement manager of a leading food retailer in Hong Kong.

Gluten-free food China 2The verdict: As always, China is a very tough nut to crack.  To arrive at an in-depth understanding of the market potential would require a full investigation into the growing instance of coeliac in China brought about as Chinese consumers adopt a more Western lifestyle, with increased consumption of wheat and gluten-containing products. Even so as it stands there is no significant demand for gluten-free products in China.

Until there is large pool of coeliac patients, increasing consumer awareness about coeliac disease and the benefits of a gluten free diet in controlling the symptoms, and rising government funding in the China this position will likely remain unchanged over the next three years, at a minimum.

Present Position

  • Consumer awareness of gluten-free products in China is low, with most gluten-free products being consumed by either the expatriate population or by Chinese High Net Worth Individuals.
  • Its incidence and distribution being largely unknown, officially, rates of coeliac disease in China are also low. As already noted, this lack of evidence indicating the existence, or extent, of coeliac among the Chinese population makes it a challenge to draw objective conclusions regarding the market size of gluten-free food products.
  • On the whole China media have been dismissive of the benefits and need for gluten-free products in China. An example of such sentiment is highlighted in one such article that refers to gluten-free as “an American obsession providing psychological comfort…” openly questioning “are gluten-free foods really better for the body?

(Source: http://www.qdaily.com/articles/28547.html).

Future Scenario

  • Typically, in terms of tackling coeliac as a public health issue, the central government and local authorities would be expected to take the initial lead in directing strategies for coeliac prevention thus raising public awareness and opening the market to local and international manufacturers / brands.
  • There is little doubt a major rise in the prevalence of coeliac is less than a decade away, especially in urban environments where the risk of is becoming a common disease would be higher.
  • With future insight and food allergies becoming more common, a shift in the mindset of Chinese consumers will ultimately push food exporters to phase out gluten and nut products.
  • Direct consequences of the numerous safety scandals that have hitherto plagued China’s food industry have been stronger consumer awareness of harmful food ingredients and more stringent labelling requirements. In this context for the consumer becoming gluten free may be about more the inclusions in a specific food product, not the food product itself.
  • At the most basic level, and this point is worth bearing in mind regarding a potential ‘toe in the waterTaobao (https://world.taobao.com/) or daigou D2C (http://www.daigousales.com/) cross-border ecommerce play, the main factors driving consumer purchasing decisions will continue to be quality and price, rather than following a gluten free diet.

Current gluten-free food / channels in China

  • Tmall http://www.tmall.com[Tmall is the largest business-to-consumer (B2C) retail platform in Asia, and most visited B2C online platform in China]

The following link is in Chinese.

https://list.tmall.com/search_product.htm?spm=a220m.1000858.1000723.2.4a1504c0s85EBC&&from=rs_1_key-top-s&q=%CE%DE%F4%EF%D6%CA%CA%B3%C6%B7

The results from a search for “Gluten Free” in Chinese.  Scroll up and down to review the images and pricing, which is in RMB or CNY [FYI 1 RMB = Euro 0.13 -date 3rd November 2017]. The sales volumes are particularly small given that the fee for setting up a shop-front on Tmall, or selling via such a shop are very high. The market is embryonic.

  • Taobao [Taobao is the biggest consumer-to-consumer (C2C) e-commerce platform based in China]. The following link is in Chinese

https://s.taobao.com/search?q=%E6%97%A0%E9%BA%B8%E8%B4%A8&type=p&tmhkh5=&spm=a21wu.241046-global.a2227oh.d100&from=sea_1_searchbutton&catId=100

The results from a search for “gluten free” in Chinese. Scroll up and down to review the images and pricing, which is in RMB or CNY [FYI 1 RMB = Euro 0.13 -date 3rd November 2017] The sales volumes are somewhat higher given that its only November 3rd… Yet, most of these foreign brands are airmailed from the source directly to the customer once an order has been placed. This maybe a low-cost option for testing the market.  There are other daigou, mobile apps and social network shopping apps that may also be useful for toe dipping. However, gluten-free food producers are not going to generate significant revenue streams from such cross-border channels until knowledge of gluten-free food benefits is much more widespread

Hong Kong?

Beyond the expat community there is “little demand” for gluten-free food products, and that’s from two trusted sources who are my first ports of call for all Hong Kong-related food matters.

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Parnell Street’s Chinese community

 

Chinese Community Parnell Street 001.jpgUrban blight, neglected and abandoned Georgian buildings, and poor quality streetscape have long bedevilled the character of Parnell Street East, which is just off the northeast end of Dublin‘s O’Connell Street, a street apparently forgotten by Dublin City Council planners.

Chinese Community Parnell Street 008.JPG

Be that as it may, the presence of Asian supermarkets, hair salons, internet cafes, sidewalk fruit and vegetable stalls,  noodle houses, and restaurants all with their own distinctive signage also testify to Parnell Street East’s organic development over the past 20 years as an ethnic precinct.

Chinese Community Parnell Street 003

Indeed, in many ways the bustle of daily life on Parnell Street East, the focal point for the largest concentration of the Chinese immigrants living and working in Dublin, resembles a typical Chinese (mainland, Taiwan, and Hong Kong included) street. The shops and restaurants provide important social gathering places for the Chinese community, while Dublin’s discerning foodies are more and more drawn to its ever expanding rich diversity of authentic and delicious Chinese and Asian eateries.

This orientation as an ethic precinct adds up to a civic asset that could be capitalised upon to incite economic growth, tourism and opportunities for new immigrants. Hitherto, Dublin City Council has yet to recognise this ethnic area as a civic asset, which sets our capital city apart from other significant international cities, such as London, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Rome and Paris, all of which have distinguished multi-cultural Chinatown districts.

Chinese Community Parnell Street 016

The completion of the Luas Cross City single track loop, with a Parnell Luas tram stop located in front of Marlborough House, will be an essential element in the regeneration of the precinct. It also presents Dublin City Council with a unique opportunity to build, following consultations with the Chinese and other local community stakeholders, on the ethnic character of the street by creating a vibrant district of local businesses and traders that consolidates the distinctive ethnic diversity of the precinct.

Plant more trees, consider making a space for an oriental style park or garden, play to the strengths of the street and its community. Above all talk to the residents who have reinvented Parnell Street East.

The photographs above depicting every day life on Parnell Street were shot over a two days period, March 4th and March 5th 2017 (Copyright @ Niall J. O’Reilly 2017)

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Exports showcase offers ‘rare’ opportunity for Irish products in growing China market

Niall O’Reilly, who organised the Hangzhou leg of the Irish Exporters’ Association trip to China which we reported on last month, says an offer by Wahaha chief Zong Qinghou to attend the company’s annual internal distributor exhibition marks a “very rare China market opportunity not to be missed”.

China’s richest man, with almost €9 billion in personal assets, Zong is trying to diversify his company, the country’s biggest domestic beverage group, by opening 18 self-run shopping malls, 35 franchising malls and a further 300 franchising stores by the end of 2015.

Wahaha has a nationwide distribution network of about 10,000 distributors, over 100,000 wholesaler and three million sales terminals. It employs more than 60,000 people, has 150 subsidiary companies and 60 manufacturing bases scattered throughout China.

At the meeting with the Irish Exporters Association, Zong, invited Irish producers of milk powder, UHT milk, goat milk powder, tea, fruit drink concentrates, sweets, Irish whiskies and spirits, and, curiously, Irish tweed and knitwear products to attend the Wahaha European Premium Commodities Exhibition in Hangzhou from July 25th to July 28th.

While noting the short time to the exhibition, Zong thought the exhibition would be a great opportunity to showcase Irish products to Wahaha’s key distributors.

Exports showcase offers ‘rare’ opportunity for Irish products in growing China market - Zong Qing Hou Chairman Hangzhou Wahaha and Niall O'Reilly Managing Director Accurate Group China Business Advisers

China’s wealthiest man, Zong Qing Hou Chairman Hangzhou Wahaha – China’s most admired company – welcomes Niall O’Reilly Managing Director Accurate Group China Business Advisers to Wahaha’s HQ in Hangzhou

“This is a man whose primary interest in working with foreign companies is to bring into China products which Chinese companies are poor at making. If he likes a product, his nod is as good as a wink to Wahaha’s distribution network,” said O’Reilly, head of the Accurate Group.

China is set to become Ireland’s fourth largest export market in the next decade, and the retail sector offers huge market potential for Irish foodbeverage and clothing companies. Over 300 million people in China now have disposable income to purchase on non-essential goods that was not possible even back in the 1990s, while Chinese government policies aim to double household incomes by 2020.

Sources / Copyright: Clifford Coonan / Irish Times http://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/exports-showcase-offers-rare-opportunity-in-growing-market-1.1456741

http://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.view.php?id=i84nUxS5ONA=

Niall O’Reilly

Managing Director, Accurate Group – Ireland China Product & Business Development (ExportImport, Partner Due Diligence) Consultancy

Website: http://www.accuratelimited.com

Twitter: @AccurateChina

China Office : Niall O’ReillyAccurate China 1-3 Ying Hui Xing Zhou, Jiang Nan Shui Xiang Lian Sheng Road, Yuhang District, Hangzhou. China 310023| O: +86 571 8709 1253

Ireland Office: Niall O’ReillyAccurate Ireland 93 Upper Georges Street, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, Ireland| O: +353-1271-1830

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Filed under Accurate Group, Asia Trade Forum, Business, China, China Ireland, Economy, Food, Hangzhou, Ireland, Irish, Irish Exporters Association, Marketing, Niall in the News, Niall O'Reilly, trade

The Gamines (Los Gaminos) of Bogotá – By Kathryn O’Reilly

As the ‘International Year of the Child’ draws to a close we find it disturbing that the plight of millions of children working in slave labour conditions has received minimal publicity. The following is the story of some of them.

Like many other ill informed travelers – knowing a little but not enough – I had a certain impression of South America, a land of rhythmic music, colour, gaiety and an almost permanent fiesta. – Yes, I knew there was great poverty, but there isn’t a country to-day without it.

Among the many places in South America I visited Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia, with a population of 5,000,000 (five million) people, at an altitude of 8,612 feet, lies almost permanently in a drifting web of clouds, fortress like. Beneath the clouds, however, lies a cosmopolitan city of amazing contrasts both in people and ways of life. The clever modern architecture blends graciously with the old, unbelievable wealth – mostly gained from great mineral resources, and illicit wealth, which is not spoken of, fueled by the drug trade and illegal emerald racketeering.

If the wealth and prosperity of a country portrays itself in the way it treats its underprivileged children – then Bogotá should bow its head in shame.

In Bogotá one sees the sickening contrast of the ultimate in opulence next door to the most desperate poverty – I speak of the slum dwellings on the slopes of the Andes “Resotration” which sprawl down the hillsides overlooking the city’s northern shopping centre. These dwellings are make from stolen bricks, cardboard, sheets of plastic, pieces of wood and disused petrol drums – anything that substitutes for four walls – at any moment the bulldozer can come, sent at a whim by a local landowner or government official. When the rains come they are more often than not washed away.

The breeding ground of the Gaminos -

The breeding ground of the Gamines – People are stacked on top of each other in slum dwellings. Many children go without basic amenities, much less the right to schooling.

Gaminos breeding grounds - Slum swellings sprawled across the hillside overlooking Bogota's northern shopping centre. According to unofficial estimates around 2,000,000 people in Bogota call such dwellings

Gamines breeding grounds – Slum swellings sprawled across the hillside overlooking Bogota’s northern shopping centre. According to unofficial estimates around 2,000,000 people in Bogota call such dwellings “home”

Gaminos breeding grounds - The slums of Bogota's mountainous perpihery

Gamines breeding grounds – The slums of Bogota’s mountainous perpihery

Bewildered prematurely aged women in the squatter settlements migrate from slow starvation in the countryside, like so many desperate ‘Dick Whittingtons’, hopeful that the city can offer more than their rural life. They bear too many children: In Bogotá the infant mortality rate is said to be 60 per 1,000 live births, while many of those born will die of disease, malnutrition and lack of medicine. For example, last August, in just one Bogotá maternity clinic a lack of medicine resulted in the deaths of 93 babies. Girls, with poor young mothers facing intense peer pressure from husbands and relatives desiring the survival of sons over daughters, are particularly at risk. Moreover, a cultural inclination for the dilution of milk bottles, which invariably are contaminated, over breast-feeding further fuels the risk of malnutrition and disease. 

Volunteer workers find that the most common objections to birth control are social ones, not religious, deriving from the male’s excessive concern with ‘machismo’.   From this wretched background the wandering homeless urchins street children – the gamines [in Espanola pronounced (gah MEE nays)] are bred, left to fend for themselves on the pitiless streets of Bogotá.

[Blog Note: In 1978, according to Page 272 of “Gamines: how to adopt from Latin America” [by Jean Nelson-Erichsen and Heino R. Erichsen (1981)], there were 130,000 gamines were living on the streets of Colombia’s cities.]

The Gaminos of Bogota - Child on the street, screenshot from the film

The Gamines (Los Gaminos) of Bogota – Child on the street, screenshot from the film “Gamin” by Ciro Duran, 1978

The children, as young as six years old, are sent out onto the streets by their mother or father or whatever where they compete with the vultures in their daily quest for food among the city’s refuse bins. Ill clad in their torn shirts and pants – often with no shoes, sometimes straw slippers, they form packs, sleeping on quiet streets, in doorways, in local parks and under bridges. It is a well know fact that they can strip a car down to the chassis in five minutes flat. They are fast on their feet, so fast the police seldom catch them – more often than not the police turn a blind eye. Girls of thirteen become prostitutes, their faces reflecting the hopelessness of their lives. Even children earning ₤1 per week down the treacherous coal mines are considered lucky.

Three years ago, when the Pope visited Bogotá the government sent military trucks on to the streets to pick up the gamines, keeping them in the mountains until His Holiness had left, for fear that he would see them or that their plight would be brought to his attention.

The gamines, or homeless street children, of Bogota sleep together, and form street gangs, to protect each other. They live off the proceeds of petty crime

The gamines, or homeless street children, of Bogota sleep together, and form street gangs, to protect each other. They live off the proceeds of petty crime

To walk on the streets of Bogotá wear even a wrist watch is not just hazardous, it’s crazy. The gamines would pull it off your arm, and if it didn’t come your wrist would be at stake. The same fate applies to handbags or any kind of jewellery.

The Casa de las Menores is a kind of remand home where boys picked up from the streets were sent. They may have committed some small crime or be guilty of the crime of illegitimacy and abandonment, unwanted orphans without any identification papers. Many boys are crammed into limited accommodation, and, certainly in the past, gruesome offences have been committed by the stronger against the weaker.

I heard of a Christmas party given by some social workers for these children. When the children saw the food they went crazy, knocked over the tables and ate like animals. They paid for this misdemeanour by being flogged with thongs by the wardens who accompanied them.

I have been told that the authorities are doing “something” – but “something” is not enough. There are now a number of volunteer projects in motion – Colombian and American teenagers are dynamic in the work that they do for these waifs – but it is only the tip of the iceberg. A complete change in social attitudes is not only necessary but vital if the smouldering discontent is not to erupt into a volcano of violence that the lethargic authorities will be unable to control.

And what of us safely ensconced in the faraway ‘developed’ worlds of Europe and America? What responsibility do our affluent societies bear for the prevalence and maltreatment of Bogotá’s disposable street children? It is clear to me that with Columbia’s drug trafficking cartels seeking to cash in on growing demand in our world for the highly addictive cocaine, more and more the true cost, the victims, of such demand will be the Gamines, the throwaway children.

This article was posted in the Irish Women’s Political Association (WPA) Journal No 14, Winter 1979. It was written by my late mother Kathryn O’Reilly http://wp.me/p15Yzr-k7 (or Catherine O’Reilly as attributed by the journal’s editor) who had recently returned from an extraordinary journey to Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela as guests of great personal friends the British Ambassador to Ecuador (John and Jenny Hickman) and the British Ambassador to Venezuela (Jock and Molly Taylor).  

During International Year of the Child in 1979 many problems relating to children—slavery, abuse, prostitution, homelessness – which thus far had been rejected out of hand or blatantly ignored by municipal governments throughout Latin America were given an international airing. In her own small, yet determined, way my mother, Kathryn O’Reilly, had hoped her article would draw the attention of Irish women to the wrongful practices of the Bogotá authorities with respect to addressing the plight of the gamines. International pressure, with Unicef actively assisting in the exposure of nationally embarrassing child maltreatment issues, moved previously complacent national government and city authorities in Latin America to start taking steps, albeit piecemeal, to address child protection issues, particularly with respect to homeless street children. 

Despite the nature of this article about the vicious cycle of poverty, desertion, abuse, neglect and children’s lack of access to basic amenities that breeds the gamines, the sight of which left an indelible mark on my mother’s psyche, she considered Colombia a wonderful and fascinating country. In Bogotá she met many inspirational local NGO volunteers and thus had a first hand knowledge of their outstanding efforts to resolve the many complex, multidimensional, problems which every developing country with limited resources faces – which are mainly the result of a rapid increase in urban populations  without the housing and service provisions that such growth demands. For my mother the best things about Colombia were its natural beauty and the warm welcoming attitude of Colombians towards visitors. In fact, given half the chance she wouldn’t have hesitated to go back!

Blog Note:

If you would like to sponsor a homeless child in Bogotá check out the NGO

‘SOS Children’s Villages’  

http://www.street-children.org.uk/

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Filed under 1979, Colombia, Corruption, Extravagence, Food, Health, Indifference, Kath Byrne, Kathryn O'Reilly nee Byrne (Tivoli Close, Poverty, Travel, writing

China – Under The Hood: Would you dine at this Chinese restaurant?

Dandong Arirang Chinese Restaurant Customer Charter

    1. RESTAURANT MANAGEMENT AND STAFF WILL NOT BE HELD LIABLE FOR ANY PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, OR MENTAL HARM CAUSED TO CUSTOMERS ARISING FROM CUSTOMER COMPLAINTS ABOUT FOOD OR SERVICE.
    2. DO NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT THE FOOD.
    3. DO NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT THE SERVICE.
    4. DO NOT COMPLAIN.

Would you eat at this Chinese restaurant?…. These are just the waitresses preparing for another grueling day waiting tables. After watching this video.

If I still had an appetite, I’d probably do Take Away!

[The Dandong Arirang Restaurant, is located in the city of Dandong in north east China‘s Liaoning Province. Dandong, a riverside city provides revealing views of North Korea from across the Yalu River]

It is not an uncommon sight to witness pre-work team-building on the streets outside hairdressers and restaurants all over China, such as shown in this video clip of  a Shanghai hairdresser’s attempt to build an efficient, harmonious and productive work group.

Team-building outside Shanghai hairdresser salon

However, what the Dandong Arirang Restaurant video reveals is a glimpse of  ‘China – Under the Bonnet’. Scratching not far below the surface, particularly in north east China among traditional Communist die-hards, will expose political aspirations harking back to the days of Maoist-era social morals.  Doubtless Bo Xilai, the son of BoYibo (one of the Eight Elders of the  Communist Party of China), the deposed Communist Party chief of Chongqing would have considered the Dandong Arirang Restaurant employee work out as being very much in the spirit of his neo-leftist red culture movement. 

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Taken down a peg: Not as good a cook as I thought I was?

On no account put it to an Italian your gastronomic skills are within walking distance of his, especially if he is a kitchen maestro who has a passion for creating delicious food.

And so it was: A Skype Chat..

Niall:        I hate to ruin your day but

Niall:         …………….

Niall:        well your son mentioned last night.. that my cooking was “like my father’s“…..

Niall:        I take that as a huge accolade 😉

Mr. U (C’s father): I told him to be very polite, gentle, educated and even if he doesn’t like something, always say that was excellent.

That’s how a friend of 24 years humbles an Irishman who hitherto retained a high opinion, albeit short-lived, of his culinary dexterity. Oh well!

[There is a bit of history here: The June 1989 Beijing Food Massacre.

On June 6th I was cooking an Irish stew on a small electric stove in  Room 1106 at the Beijing Language Institute (ak.a. Beijing Language and Culture University).  A telephone call from an unflustered Noel Kilkenny, First Secretary of the Irish Embassy in Beijing, diverted my attention. The city was in lock-down mode, rumours of civil war and further crackdown swirling. He put me in the picture and soon I was running down ten flights of stairs to meet him, having instinctively unplugged the stove and grabbed my toothbrush.

Four months later, I unlocked the door of 1106… Ah the stew still there on the stove… rotten, slimy and mouldy…. And then my roommate Mr. U, the kitchen maestro, arrived!]

Putrid Smily Rotten

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China – Under The Hood: A Dog’s Life in China – To Stroke or to Stir Fry?

To Stroke Or To Stir-Fry  - Dog For Food Breeding in China

This ill-fated mongrel dog, horribly compressed into a tiny wire-mesh cage, knows it’s destined for the wok – to be stir-fried! #stopyulin2015

Man’s Best Friend?

Dog lovers will have no problem telling you why the dog is regarded as man’s best friend: Faithfulness, unqualified love, friendship and laughs. By convincing us to be more active, having a dog simply makes our lives better and makes us healthier.

No matter how lethargic we may feel, who can resist Muffin or Flossy or Toby or Buster or Coco when they saunter up to us pleading to go for a walk? Or maybe that wagging tail is an appeal for a gentle rub?

Not only can dogs be incredible friends, but they also give us humans much needed support, as well as affection and companionship: From guiding the blind, to warning the deaf that something needs their attention, to being there for the lonely, dogs are remarkable creatures!

Man’s best friend? Well not for everyone. The photograph above, which I snapped in Du’an in South West China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, is particularly upsetting. Typical of the street-wise dogs commonly seen roaming around rural villages and towns the length and breath of China, this bewildered mongrel, compressed into a tiny wire-mesh cage, is destined for a wok – to be stir-fried, or perhaps slow-cooked as a soup or stew, seasoned with spring onion, spices, rice wine and ginger.  The terror in its eyes says everything: This abused dog knows its fate. All dog lovers should be revolted by this image.

The Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is infamous for its annual Summer Solstice Yulin Dog Meat Festival 玉林狗肉节 (#stopyulin2015), the most cold-blooded and barbaric festival in the world, where every year 1,000’s of dogs are savagely killed and eaten, the run up to which involves a nefarious trade by dog peddlers in abducted stray and domestic dogs covering the length and breath of China.

What’s wrong with eating dog meat?

Before I start ranting on about the obvious cruelty, it is only fair to point out what I would imagine is the viewpoint of ‘dog for food’ farmers and dog-eaters across China, Korea, the Philippines, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

In China, dogs have been reared for their meat since Neolithic times. Farmers see no difference between pig eating and dog eating. The degree of objection lies in the means of rearing, transport, killing and cooking rather than in the choice of animal species. With respect to the Yulin Dog Meat Festival 玉林狗肉节 (#stopyulin2015) locals assert their right to eat dog meat based on traditional custom, stating if they are cruel then what about those who eat pork, beef and chicken?

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), dog meat is considered a health food coordinating Yin and Yang. With the Yin character it is considered warming to the body, which is why Chinese tend to eat more dog meat in winter. In Korea the opposite happens, dog meat is eaten mainly during the hot summer months.

The popularity of dog eating is increasing at an explosive rate – evolving rapidly from its traditions as a cottage industry.  While considered expensive compared to other meats, in northern and southern parts of China dog is an exotic banquet dish to be savoured on special occasions, especially when trying to impress your guests. The most recent information available through Google shows 43% of respondents in a Shanghai and Beijing lifestyles survey confirming they eaten dog meat, at least once.

Dog eating is big business

Now it is no longer a case of a few peasant farmers breeding a female dog once a year and taking the grown puppies to the market for a little extra pocket money.

With official local government approval, huge dog farms are being set up across the north and south China using modern scientific factory farming principles.  Faster growing methods and more submissive breeds of dog are being introduced (for example, Saint Bernard mountain dogs) and the whole business is being scaled up with modern distribution and marketing techniques.

Here are the English translations from various websites regarding two Saint Bernard breeding centres in China:

1. Breeding base of Meat-producing Breeding St. Bernard of Lin Xing Raising and Propagating Company of Shanxi, Datong Coal Mining Administration

“For a local coal mine owner faced with financial problems and mine safety issues the production of Saint Bernard mountain dog was a ‘no brainer: In comparison to chicken and pig farming breeders of Saint Bernard mountain dogs can expect to earn three to four times more income”

2. Shenyang Food Dog Research Institute, Shenyang City, Liaoning, China

“The Shenyang Food Dog Research Institute has created over 50 sites with over 6,000 Saint Bernard dogs, which are considered both tender and tasty to eat”

#StopYulin2015

Yulin Dog Meat Festival – The most barbaric festival in the world. #StopYulin2015

What’s been done in China to put an end to this?

Unfortunately, much of the anti-dog meat campaigning is tainted by racial discrimination, as is the resistance to the anti-dog meat campaigning.

Dog for food’ farmers and eaters view anti-dog eating campaign as another example of the conflict between Oriental and Western cultures, arguing that dog eating has gone on for thousands of years. Such campaigns actually cause resentment and ill will among people who have the potential to actually see the “man’s best friend” side of the argument, rather than the protein side, and stop eating them.

The good news is more and more people in China believe that dogs have earned their place in society as companions and helpers – they want the eating of dog meat to end. In May 2011, animal rights activists stopped a truck in Beijing containing 500 dogs destined for the dinner table. Following a stand-off involving over 200 people and a toothless police contingent by the roadside the animal rights activists purchased the dogs from the dog peddling lorry driver for US$18,000. More recently, in the summer of 2014 a dog lover noticed a truck full of dogs packed in open air cages along the Jingha Expressway (Beijing-Harbin Expressway) he alerted netizens on Weibo, China’s leading micro-blogging app. Volunteers quickly coordinated rescue organisations and citizens in many cars and vehicles to encircle the truck. The truck contained 400 dogs; together with four more trucks that were subsequently captured, 2,400 dogs were rescued, the most rescued dogs ever. Most were adopted, while the remainder, after receiving emergency treatment, were sent on to dog shelters in Hebei province. Unfortunately one truck escaped.

While an outright ban on the traditional custom of dog eating, especially with respect to the Yulin Dog Meat Festival 玉林狗肉节 (#stopyulin2015), is unlikely to be effective, as a first step authorities should enforce rigorous controls aimed at ensuring the source of the dog meat is legal and safe. A concentrated effort against those who steal and abuse domestic and stray dogs must also be imposed.

Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Taiwan have already banned the practice – this is the example for China to follow.

Stop eating dogs! Stop the Yulin Dog Festival 2015!

Note: Original article was written on June 20, 2011. Latest revisions to this article are dated February 4, 2015

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Filed under China, Chinese, Culture, Dog, Food, Poverty, Taste

China – Under The Hood: The Curious Incident Of The Dissolving Peach

No, I’m not being self-absorbed, and it’s not as if loads of locals around me are succumbing to nasty, mysterious illnesses (anyway the local tabloids always tone down the numbers). Nevertheless, of late in conversations with Hangzhouers I’ve noticed three questions coming up again and again in a tone verging on alarm.

-What are we eating?

-What are we drinking?

-and…. What the hell are we breathing?

-and I’ll toss in another issue…. How can one of the two peaches I bought in the local fruit shop last Sunday turn from unripe into a liquefied mush within 36 hours of purchase? That toxic peach dissolved right before my eyes!

[Anecdote:  A couple of weeks ago having enjoyed a second Kelloggs Nutri-Grain bar (courtesy of a Red-Cross parcel from my mother back home in Ireland, also filled with a critical supply of Barry’s Tea bags) I found myself checking out the nutritional label on the back of the wrapper. Clueless as to what I was reading, it suddenly dawned on me what I was reading wasn’t anything about food.  Why did I just eat a load of preservatives which are of zero benefit to my body? Why indeed..]

If you want to participate in a live laboratory in which the food – [and air-we-breath] – chain(s) are “unintentionally” (yeah right! the expressions of innocence on the faces of those perpetrators regularly showcased to the media are as fake as the vile products they have been caught tainting) exposed to poisonous industrial chemicals with the potential to totally wreck our bodily processes, then all roads lead to China.

I’d never even heard of most of these chemicals by name. Sure I can hardly pronounce them:

  • Watermelons overdosing (exploding melons of mass destruction) on forchlorfenuron growth hormones (May 2011)

  • Sports and fruit drinks laced with “particularly damaging to a young male’s fertility” dioctyl phthalate (imported from Taiwan, June 2011)
  • The “high blood pressure” yielding heavy metal cadmium in rice (February 2011); toxic “kidney failure” conducive melamine in milk (ongoing?)
  • Arsenic in soy sauce (ongoing?)
  • Copper in coffee (imported from Japan, 2008)
  • Bleach in mushrooms (December 2010)
  • The detergent borax in pork (added to make it resemble beef, April 2011)
  • and a whole host of fruit and vegetables smeared in deltamethrin, a synthetic insecticide, and preservatives with extremely long names!

Sure it only seems like yesterday when my buddy Umberto, who being Italian takes his cooking very seriously, watched a pot of fresh tomatoes turn white in a boiling confusion of red artificial colouring (2006).

Here in Hangzhou, affectionately known as “The Pond”, on account of its scenic West Lake,  so far (and counting…)we have:

  • Lead in the air (a lot of it apparently, courtesy of the local battery manufacturing industry)
  • Phenol in the water (courtesy of a tanker driver whose load tipped into the water supply, June 2011)… anyway phenol only causes severe eye damage, and sure what’s 25 tons of the stuff?

Spare a thought for those Harbiners up north whose Songhua River water supply was  contaminated with at least 80 tons of the carcinogen Benzine (ok, so that was back  in 2005 –‘water under the bridge’…so the local officials will tell you, long-term cancer risks notwithstanding).  No doubt, these same faceless apparatchiks will point to Germany’s e-coli cucumbers and bean sprouts (last week), the UK’s Mad Cows (hmmm) and Ireland’s contaminated pig meat (2008) as symptomatic of a global problem not just a China problem   – I’ve noticed they don’t really like talking about the “far worse than governments are revealing to the public” Fukushima nucleur disaster.

The Good News

Yes there is. Multiple the uproar each food scandal outside China receives by 1,000 times and you’ll get a sense of the disgust local Chinese feel about the continuing government incompetence and cynical manipulation of consumers by devious producers. China’s ‘You Are What You Eat’ sensitive generation is becoming increasingly aware of potential hazards of almost everything they eat and drink. What they see all around them are poor public hygiene surveillance and low standards of food quality all of which are cultivated by official incompetence, slapdash law enforcement, corruption and a corner-cutting culture among some businesses. It’s common knowledge that corrupt manufacturers and growers still use bribery and corruption to escape scrutiny.

Which brings me back to the bad news – that peach.

Eat The Peach? Certainly Not!

The facts:

  • Sunday evening in the neighbourhood fruit store

A shop widely considered to trade in Hangzhou’s finest selection of fruits. A large store, open 24×7, all year round, I supposed its popularity was simply down to the fact you are given what you pay for: natural fruit, preservative and pesticide free, as in normal fruit, grown locally… generating visions of suppliers being meticulously selected by a resident ‘Man from Del Monte’, giving his nod of approval to the perfect pineapple or apple… Well not quite, clearly a figment of my imagination.

The shop has a large imported section, offering exotic fruits from all over the world to their bàofā hù (nouveau riche) patrons mad for anything deemed exotic, to know off their knowledge and sophistication.  In my mind best to avoid this part of the shop for the same reason I’d avoid purchasing any ‘fresh’ consumable products from outside China, knowing the length it took to get from source to shelf (Kiwi from New Zealand, Apples from the USA? Bananas from South America? Hmm, imported fruit just looks too perfect and do we really believe they’re all air-freighted in?).

So the local fruit section it is.

  • Discerning shoppers everywhere like pawing their fruit for ripeness and the masses here are no different

However, in a big fruit shop that can make for a lot of grubby paws feeling up the goods: ‘The greener the fruit, the less manhandled its likely to be; let it ripen at home’, so the prevailing wisdom goes.

Two curvy, still hard, peaches caught my attention. I reckoned after being stored at an average room temperature of about 22 Celsius they’d be perfect to eat in three days. Back in the apartment, I left them on the table in their open plastic bag and went about my business, as in business trip to another city.

36 hours later I noticed a damp blot on the table cloth under the plastic bag and lifted it up. Liquid is seeping right through the plastic bag, and while one of the peaches looks exactly like it did when purchased, the other has simply dissolved into a gooey toxic mush.

  • And the upshot of this morbid tale about defiled peaches?

Yesterday, still incredulous, I recounted the story to the wife of Umberto, who, Umberto often complains, is overly preoccupied by a fear of preservatives, toxic chemicals, phony foods, and corrupt practices. Mother of three, Wu Bei wasn’t in the least bit surprised offering me the following prudent advice the next time I go fruit hunting in China:

“.. pick the fruit that’s looks somewhat chewed  and scarred by insects, because if  it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for you…. The most flawless delicious looking fruit is the most dangerous of all”.

A slightly more resigned Umberto quips that perhaps the best rule of thumb is to keep changing your poisons.

Seeing is believing…

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Fast forward to March 2013

– Rivers of blood: the dead pigs rotting in China’s water supply

“Shanghai’s drinking water is under threat after 16,000 diseased pig carcasses are found in tributaries of the Huangpu river…” Source / read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/29/dead-pigs-china-water-supply?guni=Article:in%20body%20link

The reason why 16,000 pigs ended up in the Huangpu River was never fully explained by the authorities.

Fast forward to April 2013

– Bottled water scandal highlights food safety challenges

“The quality “..criteria Zhejiang’s Nongfu Spring uses are looser than national tap water standards in terms of the amount of arsenic and cadmium allowed in its products…. Nongfu Spring uses criteria that were set by the government of east China’s Zhejiang Province in 2005. National standards were upgraded in 2007…. Nongfu Spring was the only drinking water company to participate in drafting the Zhejiang provincial standards….. enterprises are only allowed to adopt local standards in exceptional cases when there are no relevant national standards….Nongfu Spring’s products do not meet the requirements for such an exception… China has formulated nearly 5,000 compulsory food safety criteria due to its excessive number of government departments….”

” Source / read more: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2013-04/12/c_132304484.htm

Fast forward to May 2013

– Forget mutton: in China, it’s rat, fox and mink dressed as lamb

Sold in thinly sliced rolls for consumption in hotpots  the “…”lamb” was mixed with rat, fox and mink with additives including gelatin. The meat was sold to farmers’ markets in the two cities…” Source / read more: http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?id=20130505000018&cid=1103

Fast forward to October 2013

– China’s Gutter Oil Scandal: 1/10 Of China’s Cooking Oil May Be Recycled From Garbage

“… In our current society everybody tries to swindle everybody else there’s nothing we can do about it.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kne4PL5uH7c

….. and this food scandal concerning the cat meat trade…

“.. selling cat meat to butchers who then repackaged it and sold it as rabbit…” Source / read more: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/10417032/Chinese-police-find-slaughterhouse-selling-cat-meat.html

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Filed under China, Chinese, Corruption, Damage, Food, Hangzhou, Health, Indifference, Scandal, Taste, tolerance

China – Under The Hood: New KFC China advertising campaign promotes Ireland to huge domestic audience

Finger lickin’ good news for Tourism Ireland’s efforts in China to draw attention to Ireland‘s natural beauty. KFC China has recently launched a really creative advertising campaign which markets Ireland and Bailey’s fried chicken flavour to China-wide TV / social media audiences and customers in 3,800 outlets throughout China.

Judging from the coverage on LCD TV displays in office and apartment complexes here in Hangzhou, the exposure of Ireland’s natural beauty to China’s urban fast food consuming masses is far and wide.

Wondering if this campaign was an initiative of Tourism Ireland, or Baileys (Diageo), or solely a KFC (Yum! Brands) initiative?

No matter. KFC is widely acclaimed as the most successful foreign company operating in China, its success widely attributed to the adaption of its menus to local tastes following extensive research. That KFC China appreciates the revenue generating potential of the Ireland brand in China provides a clear indication of the opportunities for our tourism, food and education sectors, if properly promoted and coordinated. Just look at the success New Zealand enjoys with respect to China market access!

Check this video out (Youku is China’s equivalent of Youtube)

http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMjYyOTg4MjA0.html

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Filed under China, Chinese, Food, Ireland, Marketing, Taste, tourism

Noodle Shop sneezing fit: A really nauseating experience!

So I was hungry, needed an emergency pit-stop, and what better place to refuel than at the local noodle shop I’ve been frequenting for over a year? Or so I thought.

I am eating my bowl of noodles, minding my own business, watching the cook stirring his noodle soup pot, and the pedestrian traffic outside on the street …. when all of a sudden yer man the cook has a sneezing fit, and then again and again…

Suddenly he has his fingers on his nose to defecate, but he is still sneezing, and it’s all over his hand…. he flips his hand and splat right into the soup the clingy  mucous goes, following which he wipes his nose with the grubby sleeve of his white jacket and continues stirring his stock soup…

I mean how totally gross is that?!!!

…Oh and I didn’t finish my noodles.

Chinese sneezing fit  noodle chef

Local Chinese advice (1):

“If he (the cook) brought the soup to a boil, then there’s nothing to worry about”

Local Chinese advice (2):

“…there is a Chinese saying: ‘It’s clean if you do not see it’…… Oh and never try to ask them to make a new dish for you .  The cook probably would spit in the dish before remaking the dish and giving it back to you. He’ll get really upset as you give his boss a chance to punish him and he loses face. You could ask for a discount, much safer”.

Local foreigner advice (1):

“At least you can see the noodle guys preparing the food.  Imagine what they would do if you couldn’t see them.

Local foreigner advice (2):

“I am always super-cool to the noodle guys at my local noodle shop… they all know me, and they always seem to show me a little extra love when I order a bowl. However, I have made a point of NOT paying close attention to how they knock out my order. Ignorance is bliss”.

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Filed under China, Culture, Food, Hangzhou, Health, Indifference, Taste