The Junk Snack Menace

June 7, 2011
Editor: Lin Lin

The Brazilian Grill snack contains not a shred of meat and the Spicy Fish Treat includes not so much as a single fish scale. But at around 50 cents a packet, these gaily colored flour and food additive eatables are all too enticing to young diners. Who produces these snacks, and should they carry a health warning? 

Popular CCTV anchorwoman Wang Xiaoya and financial commentators Ma Guangyuan and Liu Ge made the following comment on these questions in the CCTV (China Central TV) Today Review program.

The chicken, beef  and spicy fish snacks so popular among children are made of flour, seasonings and food additives. Produced in unhygienic environments through crude processing methods, food safety-conscious parents should be aware that these snacks are mainly on sale at convenience stores close to primary schools.

Snacks produced in unhygienic environments through crude processing methods [sina.com]

Snacks produced in unhygienic environments through crude processing methods [sina.com]

"These snacks are pretty popular," one shopkeeper told the CCTV reporter.  

He then produced a packet, telling the reporter, "This one, 'Stir Fried Chicken Feet' is a big favorite. It's spicy, savory and sweet – all the tastes children most love." The shopkeeper also admitted that, with a 20 to 30 percent mark-up, such snacks are also very profitable merchandise.

When asked what he thought of these snacks, one market regulator said, "I would not allow my child to eat such things. They are full of food additives."

The shopkeeper also confessed that he does not let his daughter eat these products. "I only let her eat snacks that I buy from the supermarket. These cost about fifty cents each, so must be bad for children," he said.

Resident commentator on the popular CCTV talk show Today Review Liu Ge confirmed just how enticing these snacks are to children. "I was always finding them in my daughter's school bag when she was at elementary school," Liu said. 

Liu Ge believes there should be more school and parental supervision of children's consumption habits. "As parents, one thing we could do to stop them from consuming such junk food would be to cut off their pocket money, but that might not work," Liu said. 

"These small snacks are obviously targeted at children. Although cheap, they carry a high profit margin, sometimes as much as 30 percent. And they are in the flavors that children like most," Liu's fellow Today Review commentator Ma Guangyuan added.

"Flour is the main raw material for these junk foods. They are processed to taste like fish, beef or whatever. So, food additives play a major role in their production. The damage they could inflict on children' health doesn't bear thinking about. One survey found 20 different food additives in four types of snack," Ma told the Today Review studio audience. 

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