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Staying in a Chinese Hotel? Be Careful, the Linens Could Be Dangerous

Posted: 08/28/2014 3:20 pm

underground laundry dalian undercoverIt’s the most basic requirement when staying at a hotel: a nice, comfy bed to sleep in. The bed may be hard and it may be small, but there’s one thing that is not debatable: the bed must be clean.

Unfortunately, that is frequently not the case. Some hotels have tried to cut corners by enlisting the use of underground, non-certified laundromats to help them wash their linen. CCTV, the state-run broadcaster, went undercover in the dark world of hotel laundry and found these underground laundromats operate in unhygienic conditions and use chemical compounds so harsh they could be dangerous to the unlucky people who use them.

A reporter used a hidden camera to document a visit to one such facility in Dalian. The reporter said there were no signs or identifying features out front that marked the building as home to a laundromat. When he walked inside, he saw piles of laundry strewn all over the floor, with dirty water running throughout parts of the factory.

underground laundry dalian undercover

A closer look at the operations of the underground laundry showed numerous health and safety infractions. There were unmarked vats next to the washing machines containing white powder, later revealed to be strong acids and sodas used to clean the laundry.

These compounds include hydrogen peroxide, sodium hypoclorite, oxalic acid, and caustic soda, according to an industry insider who wanted to remain anonymous. He confirmed use of the dangerous chemicals is common.

underground laundry dalian undercover

An industry insider spoke said the powerful chemicals makes his job a lot easier:

It holds strong acids and bases along with strong bleaches; using these makes for easy washing done fast. In order to clean faster for whiter whites, these compounds are required. It’s awesome using these things; we (the workers) feel as though we’re using a nuclear bomb.

The compounds are not used in conjunction with any neutralizing agent to counteract their potency. Direct contact with skin from some of these compounds can lead to itching, reddening, or even an allergic reaction.

underground laundry dalian undercover

If your skin doesn’t come into contact with harsh chemicals while in a hotel, it could come into contact with dirty laundry instead. The reporter found some items aren’t cleaned at all; if it looks clean and is white, it’s simply ironed and repackaged.

Another practice is to indiscriminately mix laundry taken from a hospital with those taken from a hotel and wash them all together.

Those inside the facility say these practices are to make sure the laundry is as white as it can be, while cleanliness comes second.

underground laundry dalian undercoverunderground laundry dalian undercover

Photos: CCTV News

h/t @MissXQ


China’s Shrink-Wrapped Eating Utensils Are Not As Clean As You Think

Posted: 08/15/2014 12:15 pm

eating utensil sterilized When dining at a Chinese restaurant, dishes and utensils are often provided in the form of individualized, shrink wrapped plastic packages to ensure the utensils have been cleaned, sterilized, and then wrapped to keep them that way.

But as seasoned expats can attest, the plastic doesn’t always ensure cleanliness. Despite being stamped with a certification number, date of issue, and place of production, diners often crack open their individualized place-settings only to discover eating utensils that are still dirty.

While most Chinese and expats have a story, anecdotal evidence isn’t necessarily indicative of a systemic issue. Unless of course it is. Thankfully, the Wenzhou Evening Report decided to find out. Over the course of a month, two undercover reporters looked at a lot of utensils in a lot of plastic wrap. The results of their in-depth investigation are nothing short of horrifying.

eating utensil undercover sterilized

The report makes serious allegations of professional impropriety with specific violations that are the very antithesis of “clean and sterile”. Following an investigation at one of the utensil cleaning plants, the reporters made some disturbing discoveries:

  • employees don’t use gloves or uniforms;
  • employees don’t wash their hands;
  • utensils that fall on floor are still kept in the production line;
  • sterilized utensils are kept in dirty places, like the ground;
  • utensils that remain dirty after passing through the production line are improperly cleaned, as with a dirty rag;
  • utensils covered with human blood are considered fit for consumers;
  • the process of sterilization only takes two to three seconds;
  • a disinfectant solution is reused for three days before changing

These are all serious allegations against an industry for which cleanliness is their strict selling point.

eating utensil undercover sterilized

And yet, as detailed in the report, and as seen in other similar exposés of the food industry, workers are more than willing to admit that they willfully endanger consumers with unsafe health practices.

The month-long investigation met with heavy resistance from the hygienic eating utensil industry, which was reluctant to reveal any information about their practices despite having a near monopoly in Wenzhou. Of 50 restaurants interviewed for the report, 80% said they used the shrink-wrapped eating utensils despite not knowing anything about how the utensils were prepared, or where they come from.

The Longwan Aixin Disinfectant Utensil Center refused the reporter’s request to visit their facilities, as did fellow Wenzhou utensil provider Guoxijie Utensil Cleansing. When the reporter went to the Guoxijie facilities unannounced on July 22, he was discovered within two minutes and ejected from the premises.

eating utensil undercover sterilized

The reporter was finally able to make his way into the secretive industry by applying for a job at the Kangjie facility, a feat accomplished with the help of an intern that was following along. After a two minute interview in which there was no need to produce a health certificate, the reporter was able to get behind the scenes.

As it turns out, the process of turning dirty eating utensils into a clean and sterilized form suitable for consumers is a five-step process that takes 20 minutes to complete: preliminary wash, sorting, liquid disinfecting, main wash, heat sterilizing, and packaging. Of the first five steps, only six employees are assigned compared with nine workers assigned to packaging the utensils.

The report describes the five separate areas:

  1. The preliminary wash is the first step in the process, and is the dirtiest place in the facility. It is staffed by one worker.
  2. The sorting area has three areas where utensils get organized by individual types.
  3. The liquid disinfecting area is a sink about two meters long filled with disinfectant into which the utensils are soaked.
  4. The main wash employs a high-pressure water gun to clean the utensils more thoroughly than step one.
  5. The heat sterilizing machine is two meters long inside of which the utensils are subjected to high temperatures to dry and kill any bacteria.
  6. The packaging area is a two meter-long conveyor belt upon which the clean and sterilized eating utensils are organized by hand into individualized packages before being shrink-wrapped by a machine.

eating utensil undercover sterilizedThe Kangjie facility may appear to have a proper system for thorough cleaning and sterilization, but as the undercover reporter found in the three days of working there, the day to day implementation of the system is where everything goes wrong.

On his first day, the reporter noticed that no one was wearing any protective clothing. He asked a fellow worker:

Reporter: How is it that we don’t wear any gloves or work clothes? Aren’t they mandated by the factory?

Worker: Sure there are! But with the weather being so hot, what’s the point of wearing them? No need to wear them.

Reporter: Have you ever worn them?

Worker: If someone comes for an inspection, then we wear them.

Then, the reporter asked how “clean” utensils are to be handled:

Reporter: After disinfecting, the chopsticks are sill wet; do we still wrap up the ones that haven’t been disinfected and cleaned?

Worker: Yes! The chopsticks are the dirtiest.

Reporter: I see that you’ve still wrapped up chopsticks that have fallen on the floor. Isn’t that a bad idea?

Worker: No need to concern yourself with that. Once they’re wrapped up, they’re fine.

eating utensil undercover sterilizedNot once while working at the cleaning and sterilizing facility was the reporter asked to wash his hands, so he asked a co-worker about it:

Reporter: When I come to work, the boss still hasn’t required me to wash my hands. Don’t I have to?

Worker (laughs embarrassingly, then waves hand): No problem! No need to wash your hands! I didn’t wash my hands yesterday.

Reporter: Won’t this be unclean?

Worker: (laughs)

The following day, the reporter noticed that despite being put through the cleaning process, pieces of food were still stuck to the eating utensils even after the heat sterilizing process. As the pieces of leftover food were large enough, the reporter was able to identify them by sight: watermelon rinds, water-logged beef, chewed up corn, chicken feet, spare rib bones, and hot peppers.

After noticing employees placing disinfected utensils on the ground, the reporter went to help out a fellow worker who found a piece of pork stuck within a pile of chopsticks.

Reporter: After getting out this piece of pork, do I need to wash my hands?

Managing worker (laughing): No need.

Reporter: Can I keep wrapping up these spoons?

Managing worker (nodding): Sure.

eating utensil undercover sterilized

Despite there being a system through which the utensils are processed, any items that pass through the system that remain dirty aren’t necessarily made to undergo the process again. Instead, any utensils that have stains after the disinfectant stage are wiped with a dirty rag that looks yellowed with age and is usually left on the washer.

On his last day of working at the cleaning and disinfectant facility, the reporter asked about adhering to the system:

Reporter: Can we directly wash the utensils by scrubbing (by hand)?

Worker: Yes, if you still have time. If it’s too late, then forget it. For those (leftover) grains of rice and bits of chive onions, just wipe them away and it will be fine.

eating utensil undercover sterilized

The cleaning and sterilization facility is a dangerous place for workers because of the risk of injury from broken utensils. In one instance, a female co-worker cut herself and then bandaged herself up and went back to work.

Bloodstains from the woman’s injury could be seen upon utensils that had already been cleaned and sterilized. While some of these blood stains were wiped away, others completely passed through the system and could be seen upon packaged settings set to be delivered to restaurants.

While the facility has a process to sterilize eating utensils, the reporter found that utensils were not properly sterilized. Following his last shift, the reporter talked to an old worker. The man revealed that since they have a small workforce compared to the amount of utensils for which they are responsible, the utensils are only put into the sterilizer for two to three seconds at a time, and aren’t sterilized dry.

eating utensil undercover sterilized

Lastly, the reporter found that while water in the first area is changed daily from being so dirty, the liquid disinfectant is used continuously for three days, two if the load is especially heavy.

With the number of food safety scandals and lax quality standards in China, the horrors of this report may be a foregone conclusion for some. Then again, a better educated public will hopefully translate to more sanitary eating conditions, even if the restaurants have to scrub one utensil at a time.


Photos: Guangzhou Daily, 99114


Walmart China Hit With Food Safety Scandal As Employee Goes Undercover to Detail Violations [UPDATED]

Posted: 08/8/2014 6:23 pm

walmartJust as Shenzhen looks to welcome several new stores in the near future, Walmart is now dealing with its own food safety scandal. A senior employee, who has been with the company for eight years, has detailed many of the company’s unsafe food preparation techniques.

On August 7, the Guangdong news program “One Time” broadcast an episode in which a long-time employee of the Walmart in Gonghu, Shenzhen claimed the store engages in a number of unsafe food preparation practices. To prove it, he agreed to wear a camera and go undercover while on the job.

This employee works in the prepared food section where foods are cooked for Walmart customers to purchase. He’s worked in the section for his entire eight years with the company.

walmart food safety scandal

Since last year, Walmart has implemented a strict cost control policy in order to maximize profits.

The employee alleges that the oil used to deep fry foods for customers is of inferior quality because it is regularly reused. As seen in the video, the oil used to cook a hundred pieces of chicken has already turned dark, but because half a bucket of new oil is added to the used oil, they are able to escape detection.

The unidentified employee said:

According to my vast experience, the oil is not changed for half a month to a whole month at least. Sometimes, it’s not even changed at all. When workers copy the kitchen records, they would write, ‘(Oil) already changed.’

The whistleblower also revealed that raw ingredients for cooked foods are often a week old. Despite being a supermarket, fresh ingredients come in once a week and are kept refrigerated at 0 to 5 degrees Celsius to well past the food’s date of expiry.

walmart food safety scandal

According to the employee, another incident involved a customer who returned a bag of rice because it had grown mold and attracted worms. However, instead of throwing it away, the rice was given to the cooked foods department which prepared and sold it to customers for lunch.

The expose has attracted the attention of the Luohu Sungang Trade Office, which is now investigating. A spokesperson for Luohu Food Inspection admitted there is no expressly mandated time for when to change cooking oil, but that tests can determine its quality.

Meanwhile, Walmart President and CEO Sean Clarke just announced in a meeting with Shenzhen mayor Xu Qin that as many as nine new Walmart stores may be coming to Shenzhen in the next five years.

Shenzhen mayor Xu was quoted as saying he hopes Walmart will take the lead in ensuring food safety and in providing high quality food to city residents. Clarke was quoted as saying Walmart has strict internal tests when it comes to food quality and adheres to a rigid standard in purchasing its products.

walmart food safety scandal

UPDATE 2:59pm August 9: Walmart has completely denied the allegations of improper food preparation, reports Foshan Daily.

The results of the inspection carried out by Luohu Food Inspection have not yet been revealed to the public.


Photos: Xinhua, Want China Times


Prostitution Returns to Dongguan Under Protection of Local Police

Posted: 05/19/2014 2:08 pm

dongguan vice prostitution undercover crackdown corruptionDespite a crackdown that arrested a few prominent people and reportedly put 200,000 people out of work, prostitution has not been eradicated in Dongguan. On the contrary, it looks to have concealed itself very well with the aid of local police.

So very vice to see you again, but then, maybe you’ve just never left.

A Guangdong TV reporter recently went undercover to investigate a complaint that Dongguan entertainment venues were engaging in prostitution without any reprisals from the police (video here). With the help of a local resident named Wang, the reporter infiltrated several brothels in the Longhua Street area in Longhua New Town, Dongguan. It’s as though we’ve all seen this before

RELATED: Watch Prostitutes Get a Lesson in Using Momo WeChat to Lure Clients

Far from the city center, Longquan Garden by Jianda road is located a kilometer away from Hualong Road. During the day, there is not much pedestrian traffic in this residential area, but at night there is more activity that includes seven to eight motorcycle riders who zip around and ask random strangers:

Do you want to play around? For such a young guy and so full of life, no need to be so coy! The girls are of an impeccable quality; I’ll bring you over.

Through the access of a twisted labyrinth of very narrow alleys, the reporter is ushered into the fourth floor apartment of the Shengyuan Foot Bath. There, he is asked by the proprietor if he is interested in anything:

We have many different prices according to your different needs. For RMB 200 you can have the whole service, top and bottom.

That night, the reporter visited a total of seven establishments that engaged in prostitution that also included the Weiwei Leisure Club located in the 3-star Yinglun Hotel, also an establishment that also offers “foot baths”.dongguan vice prostitution undercover crackdown corruption

Upon visiting the brothels, the reporter reported these places to the 110 emergency services hotline. Some ten minutes later, the police arrived at the Yinglun Hotel, and then some ten minutes after that, they left.

After asking follow-up questions to the police, the reporter was told by a police sub-station representative:

We went there to have a look, and we did not find any prostitution as you described.

All seven brothels visited by the reporter are under the jurisdiction of the Longcheng police sub-station. The closest reported brothel to the police station is the Weiwei Leisure club only 500 meters away.

RELATED: Movie on Dongguan’s Notorious Sex Industry to Be Released

We imagine the Mayor of Dongguan Yuan Baocheng will be shocked at the problem—again. Or, maybe Yuan will be shocked at himself for having said these words at the beginning of April:

“Three months from now, we will have adopted measures that no one would have expected. I can fundamentally make the determination now that whatever cases we find, we will investigate.”

Hopefully his nerves will be soothed by the rousing anthem of civic pride sung by local youths, because it seems his troubles aren’t going to end soon. A recommended replacement work force consisting of robots will just bring up the equally frustrating problem of having to deal with robot whores, but that’s another case of nuts and bolts.


Photo: Yancheng Evening Report

h/t @MissXQ

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