Discoveries of foods that are either toxic or otherwise unfit for human consumption have constituted an unfortunate trend in China recently that has led to Netizens to ask, “What can we eat?” The latest in these food-related scandals? Eggs preserved with a toxic additive. Because of media reports about this toxic additive allegedly being used in the production process, China has ordered nationwide inspections of preserved-egg producers, according to Bloomberg News.

Local governments were instructed to inspect all lime-preserved egg plants and products for the presence of an industrial copper sulphate additive, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing the China Food and Drug Administration. “Companies found using copper sulphate to process preserved eggs will have their production licenses suspended and be punished strictly according to law,” Xinhua said.

A Dish Made With Preserved Eggs
Pictured is a dish made with preserved eggs.

Lime-preserved eggs are generally made by putting chicken, duck or quail eggs in a mixture of ash, clay, quicklime, rice hulls and salt for periods ranging from several weeks to several months, depending on the method of processing.

Food safety has gotten to be such an issue in recent years that some Chinese citizens have taken to buying daily necessities such as rice in Hong Kong whenever they can do it. With so many adulterated or counterfeit products affecting so many industries, baby formula, condoms and sanitary products have also made it onto many mainlanders’ shopping lists when they visit Hong Kong.

This latest case puts even more pressure on China’s government to enhance food and drug safety, Bloomberg News said. Vice Premier Wang Yang called for a “special campaign” to overhaul the food and drug industries and to punish violators. Food and drug safety is an important economic and political issue, Wang said.

Industrial copper sulphate -- containing arsenic, lead and cadmium -- can cause kidney damage.

Previously, accounts of rice tainted with cadmium and fox, mink and rat meat masquerading as lamb rolls were widely reported, causing concern among Chinese consumers.