Dried salted shrimp adulterated with eye crusties, regulators say
Accidental discovery puts agencies on spot to develop new tests
Almost unnoticed in the recent spate of tainted imports from China, an alert consumer has found another compromised product category: dried salted shrimp. Tiny specimens of the crustacean--a slightly less puny version of the shellfish typically served by the wheelbarrow at Red Lobster restaurants--are customarily sold, shell-on, in small bags of only an ounce or so. Used as a seasoning in Chinese cooking, their tangy pungency contributes a subtle zing to a variety of traditional recipes.
Used as directed, the adulteration of the seasoning might never have been caught. However, Boise, Idaho resident Angelica K. Lowery, who eats the crunchy, tawny, translucent little arthropods “out of hand” as a salty snack, recently noticed one of the tiny “shrimp” apparently wrapped around an eyelash.
“I knew right away it wasn’t just one of their feelers”--bits of antennae often mixed in with the shrimp--“because it was jet black and lustrous, like in some of those mascara commercials where they have really pretty Asian girls,” Lowery explained. “I was so lucky it stood out so I noticed it. I absent-mindedly eat my own boogers just like anybody else, but eating somebody else’s eyelash and gunk woulda really grossed me out.”
In fact, “I like to vomited” when she realized the little “shrimp” was originally a large-ish gift to some unidentified Chinaman from The Sandman, according to an affidavit filed as part of a $66.3 million lawsuit for emotional distress against Vietnamese packager Suk Lam Dik, Chinese distributor Long Yum Wong, Singaporean shipper West Oceania Consolidated Maritime Freight, Inc., the U.S. Customs Service, the Food and Drug Administration, Ranch 88 Mercado supermarket and the Food Network’s "Iron Chef" television program, from which she originally learned of the tasty condiment.
Besides the eyelash, another tip-off to the ersatz nature of the insect-like tidbit she almost consumed was its absence of the little black eyes normally present on the authentic version, the lawsuit said. Other than that, the eye crusty closely resembled one of the crunchy little crustaceans in its color, contorted curvature, apparent consistency--and even its seeming segmentation and the presence of leglike offshoots, Lowery claimed.
In other recent product safety scares involving Chinese imports, thousands of American dogs, cats and gerbils have died from tainted pet food; farmed fish has been found to contain banned antibiotics; unapproved antifreeze ingredients have been detected in “people” toothpaste; and lead has been found in the paint on “Thomas the Tank Engine” train toys often recommended as reusable “teething biscuits” by the U.S. WIC mother and infant nutrition program.
The FDA, which sets maximums for the number of roach parts, rat feces, and other inevitable contaminants that literally creep into the United States’ bountiful and otherwise wholesome grain supplies, said it would have to develop regulations imposing similar limits for “eye sandies” in imported dried salted shellfish.
Consumer groups urged the agency to be proactive and take the crisis as an opportunity to also regulate nail clippings, toe jam, regular (nasal) boogers, pubic hair, dental fillings, dandruff and the like, and to develop the needed chemical tests or inspection regimes for detecting these and myriad other forms of "foreigner" human detritus. However, in a joint release, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Democratic Leadership Council noted that, as of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings following his 1991 nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, pubic hair contamination has a domestic and not just an international component.
Risks from such contamination of the Oriental seasonings, imports of which measure in the hundreds of pounds and thousands of dollars annually, “absolutely” militate in favor of extensive new inspection programs, according to a government spokesman, who said the project would likely be outsourced to contractor subsidiaries of Halliburton and Bechtel corporations and Goodwill Industries, under the supervision of the Army Corps of Engineers. In the meantime, consumers have been advised to carefully examine packages of the seafood they may already have in their pantries, especially those from lot number Chs87DLkjf [irreproducible Vietnamese ideograms] AiuX1222222ZLk.