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“Dumpling Crisis”

Posted June. 07, 2004 22:26,   


After the news that pickled radishes meant for disposal were in fact used as stuffing for dumplings and the so-called “waste dumplings” were widely distributed, citizens raised their voices urging food processors to withdraw their tainted products and to apologize for the misdeeds. In the middle of this, the sales of dumplings have plunged, showing signs of a “dumpling crisis.”

▽ “Withdraw the dumplings from the market,” an Internet user wrote on June 7 on a dumpling manufacturing firm’s homepage, “as a father who has fed my daughter dumplings almost daily because she doesn’t like rice, my feelings tremble and I cannot help but feel miserable.”

On that day, more than 300 messages were posted on the firm’s homepage demanding “the disclosure of the names of the related firms,” and for “the companies to voluntarily withdraw their products.”

Housewife Cho Chung-hee (57•Seoul Dong Dae Moon Ku Lee Moon Dong) spoke her mind, “I was dumbfounded when I heard the news that dumplings from well-known companies were made that way,” adding, “Now, who will buy dumplings at the food corner?”

The police, who have charged the owners producing the low-quality dumpling stuffing on June 6, announced on the following day, “After analyzing the transactions of Company W, located in Paju, Gyeungi Province, and whose owner we have on the wanted list, out of the 30 companies producing dumplings, the top 25 received their dumpling stuffing from this company.”

However, according to police officials, “In the case of famous dumpling producers, they have colluded with suppliers, so in the books, they did not receive the spoiled stuffing, and therefore we cannot punish them for violating the Food Sanitation Act.”

▽With the companies going unpunished, and being passive in withdrawing the “waste dumplings” as well as only offering excuses, public opinion is flaring up and is demanding for the companies to take responsibility.

Company A, supplied by Company B with 330 tons (about 170 million won) of spoiled stuffing from November 1999 until recently, explained, “The spoiled stuffing was used in producing dumplings meant for export to Japan and the U.S., hence none have been distributed domestically.”

Company B also announced, “We have received stuffing from company W for only four months during 2002, and after that we got our stuffing from another company, so currently we have no spoiled dumplings circulating in the market.”

Detailed accounts of the transactions of company W, however, showed that company B was supplied with 128 tons (about 62 million won) of stuffing during the period of November 1999 until 2002.

Police officials said, “Most of the food processors claim that their ‘waste dumplings’ have all been sold out, and there is no need for a recall.”

▽Dumpling producers and chain stores announced that on June 7, the sales of dumplings fell to a tenth of the normal level.

Chain stores agreed to pull the dumplings that used the spoiled stuffing off the shelves, but are having difficulties because some companies argued that their products did not use the spoiled stuffing. An official of E-mart, a large discount store chain, said, “Although the dumplings were on sale, almost no one looked for them.”

Companies such as Haetai and CJ, known for not having used the spoiled stuffing, predicted, “The whole frozen dumpling market will take a hard hit for this incident,” and added, “We plan to advertise our products as being completely safe.”

Another official of a dumpling-producing firm hinted, “Some companies were forced to use the cheap spoiled stuffing because the discount stores demanded lower prices and other publicity events.”

In all, Chairman Kim Yong Duk of the “Citizens working for Food Safety” emphasized, “The most important thing is for the dumpling manufacturers that used the spoiled stuffing to come out clean and let the consumers know the details and prevent further damage.”

Jae-Yun Jung needjung@donga.com jaeyuna@donga.com