Thursday, July 27, 2006
And You Thought Soylent Green Was Bad 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
If you're eating right now (or contemplating doing so), you might want to skip this post. Just a warning...

I'm not quite sure what to make of this "The Jungle"-esque article in the Internet Journal of Toxicology, which exposes a stomach-turning (soy-free) method for making fake soy sauce. Remember, the part of soy sauce that provides flavor-enhancing umami ["the fifth taste"] character are amino acids - and amino acids are simply broken down proteins. Unfortunately, lots of things are potential protein sources. Just ask any Chicago dumpster rat. From "Hair Soy Sauce: A revolting alternative to the conventional" - yes, hair soy sauce:
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.
Chinese journalists went to the food seasoning manufacturer in Hubei province. They pretended to be buyers and enquired about the soy sauce ingredients. They were told by a manager that the soy sauce was made from the amino acid syrup, and mixed with water, sodium hydroxide, red sugar; hydrochloric acid and other chemical additives...

...The journalists then found the amino acid syrup manufacturer (a bioengineering company) in Hubei province. When asking [sic] 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 [being] filtered by the workers, the hair would then cut small for being processed into amino acid syrup...[keep reading, if you dare]
[via BoingBoing] Fortunately, Chinese customs regulators stepped in and seized stocks of the ersatz sauce, but not before consumers staged a massive boycott. I hope it's a hoax, but somehow I suspect it isn't. [By the way, I love the subtitle of the ITJ article.]