The latest China quality merchandise to be the cause of scandal is soy sauce made from human hair.
Chinese newspapers have been reporting with disgust that the manager of a Shandong province food company has admitted that “In small scale factories we have been making soy sauce out of human hair as a cost control measure.”
A worker familiar with the practice explains:
“Soy sauce is made by fermentation, but at small scale places they skip the fermentation and use amino acids extracted from human hair as part of the process instead. There are villages where they collect human hair for this.”
He goes on:
“I was working at a factory in Hebei province before – there they added salt and amino acids to caramel coloured water, and mixed it all with dirty water to make soy sauce. At the place where they extracted the amino acids they had lots of human hair and animal fur stored, it was quite sickening.
They also made vinegar by adding acetic acid to caramel coloured water. The village had any number of places making soy sauce, but the villagers there would only ever buy vinegar and soy sauce from famous brands.”
Soy sauce is normally made by fermenting soy beans. A more modern low-cost method (which tastes quite different and has been found to introduce carcinogens) utilises acid-hydrolyzed vegetable proteins to skip the lengthy fermentation process entirely – it is likely a variation of this process is being described here.
Another worker explains similar shortcuts being used to make vinegar (which is also normally the product of fermentation):
“At small factories making vinegar they would take pure acetic acid [a highly corrosive acid normally used in industrial applications] and just add it to water to make the vinegar.
At the decent places they would use food-quality acid intended for this purpose, but at the more unscrupulous outfits they would just use [highly impure] industrial grade acetic acid instead.”
Although such claims might ordinarily attract scepticism, as the practice of making cooking oil out of sewage is already well documented, these claims sadly take on an air of depressing credibility – in fact soy sauce made from hair and fur has been reported since at least 2004, and evidently no progress has been made in stamping out the practice.
Pictures from a 2004 report:
With Chinese food products now sold the world over, frequently as an unlabelled part of other dishes, it seems the only protection much of the world has from being poisoned by reckless Chinese businesses is the hope that these nightmare products are never exported.