Status: Gross news
Back in January 2004 I posted a short entry
about a factory in China that had been caught making soy sauce out of human hair. I also mentioned the incident in Hippo Eats Dwarf
(p.76). Now more gruesome details
have emerged, published in the Internet Journal of Toxicology
(link via Boing Boing
In late 2003, there was an alternatively produced soy sauce named "Hongshuai Soy Sauce" in China. The soy sauce was marketed as “blended using latest bioengineering technology” by a food seasoning manufacturer, suggesting that the soy sauce was not generated in a traditional way using soy and wheat. The Hongshuai Soy Sauce was sold at a relatively low price in Mainland China and became very popular among the public. The people found its taste to be similar to other brands. Because of its low price, many catering services in schools and colleges decided to use this new product.
An investigation led by TV journalists then revealed why the soy sauce was so cheap. It was being manufactured from an amino acid powder (or syrup) bought from a manufacturer in Hubei province:
When asking how the amino acid syrup (or powder) was generated, the manufacturer replied that the powder was generated from human hair. Because the human hair was gathered from salon, barbershop and hospitals around the country, it was unhygienic and mixed with condom, used hospital cottons, used menstrual cycle pad, used syringe, etc. After filtered by the workers, the hair would then cut small for being processed into amino acid syrup. The technicians admitted that they would not consume the human-hair soy sauce because the dirty and unhygienic hair was used to make amino acid syrup. A quality monitoring staff also revealed that though the hair may not be toxic itself, it definitely consisted of bacteria and other micro-organisms.
Lovely. But what the article doesn't mention, but which I believe to be true, is that soy sauce isn't the only food product made out of this cheap hair-made amino acid powder. The stuff is also sold in large quantities to the bakery industry
which uses it as a source of L-cysteine to make dough softer and more elastic. Think about that next time you're chewing on a bagel.