Tibetans in areas of Qinghai Province have been noticing the ill effects of junk food in school age children and are working to raise awareness of the issue in their communities. VOA has learned that symptoms such as bloating of the body, difficulty in breathing due to either the swelling of the esophagus channel or an allergic reaction to the foods, and stomach pain are some of the issues that are raising concern amongst parents.
It is not known whether the causes for the health problems are due to hazardous ingredients in food products such as packaged meat snacks and sodas made in under regulated factories, or through contaminated food being sold long after the manufacturer’s expiration dates. A source told VOA that many Tibetans in rural areas and children in particular don’t pay enough attention to expiry dates even if they were accurately stated on the backs of packages.
VOA has received photographs of people in the Rebkong area burning piles of packaged snack items. The food items may have been purchased for the lunar new year celebrations where more and more packaged food and drinks are being consumed in lieu of healthier traditional foods.
Health hazards stemming from under regulated or unregulated manufacture of food products, have been recurring issues in China for several years with the most well known cases being baby milk formula contaminated with melamine which has caused several deaths and thousands to fall sick since 2008.
After a recent contamination scare with Fonterra milk formula, the China Food and Drug Administration has stated that it will punish companies found to have deficient safety or quality standards, and is telling firms to improve management and supervision.
China’s inability to sufficiently regulate manufacturing by large food companies points to how difficult a challenge it faces in overseeing the thousands of small scale factories making snacks and drink products, many in what Chinese netizens concerned with health safety issues describe as ‘grossly unsanitary’ conditions.