By Jennifer 8. Lee | July 26, 2007
So a few weeks ago there was a huge ruckus about a Chinese television report that showed a vendor mixing cardboard into his bun filling in Beijing. It ran around the world — picked up by CNN and Fox News — because it seemed so resonant with the dominant narrative at the time (food scandal in China). I was surprised how many people had heard of it and brought it up in random conversation. Here is an updated version: saying it was a hoax to get ratings. True? False?
Beijing police have detained a television reporter for allegedly fabricating an investigative story about steamed buns stuffed with cardboard at a time when China’s food safety is under intense international scrutiny.
A city-wide inspection of steamed bun vendors found no “cardboard buns,” the China Daily said.
A report directed by Beijing TV and played on state-run national broadcaster China Central Television last Thursday said an unlicensed snack vendor in eastern Beijing was selling steamed dumplings stuffed with cardboard soaked in caustic soda and seasoned with pork flavoring.
Beijing authorities said investigations had found that an employee surnamed Zi had fabricated the report to garner “higher audience ratings”, the China Daily said on Thursday.
“Zi had provided all the cardboard and asked the vendor to soak it. It’s all cheating,” the paper quoted a government notice as saying.
A city-wide inspection of steamed bun vendors in the wake of the report had found no such cases, the paper said.
Beijing TV had apologized for failing to check the report’s authenticity and said it would make efforts to improve staff ethics, the paper added.
China is reeling from a series of tainted food and drug scandals that have sparked criticism at home and abroad.
The deaths of patients in Panama from mislabeled drug ingredients from China, deadly toxins in pet food exported to the United States and food laced with hazardous antibiotics and chemicals have raised fears about the safety of China’s surging exports.
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