Sat, Jul 19, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's News Watch: Warning: contains septic statistics

So there I was once more, eyeing the smorgasbord of mouth-watering delicacies in the “fresh” food section of my local convenience store on a brief break from the Neihu Towers newsroom. My gaze lingered on a package of cold noodles.

A delightful staple of Taiwanese cuisine? I can’t go wrong, right?

Wrong. Last week, the Consumers’ Foundation released the shocking — indeed, unappetizing — results of its survey of store-bought cold noodles.

After testing liangmian (涼麵) from convenience stores, hypermarkets and street stalls, the foundation said only 15 percent of samples were safe. The rest were nasty concoctions of things like hydrogen peroxide, boric acid and E. coli.

Ah, the Consumers’ Foundation — here to steer you clear of danger. Here’s a helping of this nonprofit’s studies in recent years:

The chopsticks you get with your biandang (便當) may be toxic; the coffee filters you use each morning are likely carcinogenic; your toilet cleaner probably contains hydrochloric acid (and one day you’ll spill it all over your hands); your hairdryer may be corroding your hearing and your bath towel coating your skin in formaldehyde; your favorite Dihua Street snacks could make you vomit; and you can pretty much bet that your daily dose of chicken essence contains more sodium than stated on the bottle.

If you compiled a list of everything the Consumers’ Foundation has warned you off, you wouldn’t be able to leave your house, let alone eat, but at least you’d die a very safe, non-bacteria-induced death by fasting.

This determined foundation leaves no stone unturned, no product untested. There’s an 88 percent chance the condoms you bought at that erotica store were not certified for safety and a 90 percent chance your spam messages are just ads for pornography. Yes, even your junk e-mail is substandard.

The Consumers’ Foundation has even tested the plastic balls in those ball pools for kids at places like IKEA. The results? They are veritable cesspools of pathogens out to hospitalize your unsuspecting little tykes.

Now, stateside skeptics may say this is all just fear-mongering a la Fox News, but I say: Life is terror. Under dictatorship there’s government terror. Then you trade it in for a free society and civic groups terrorize you with the knowledge that your dumplings may contain pesticide.

After all, in a free society, you have a right to know — and even if you don’t want to, someone’s going to tell you.

Hence, the Consumers’ Foundation has got your back — and if it weren’t for these guys, no one would. Honestly, who else takes the time to count tissues in a dozen packs to make sure your package of 150 tissues from Carrefour doesn’t actually contain 143?

And who else reminds you to wash your hands after touching money because the bills in your wallet may carry Staphylococcus aureus? Thank Matsu someone puts the energy and resources into studies on pivotal public health issues like these. The Consumers’ Foundation is Taiwanese society’s very own hypochondriac Mom.

And Mom’s worried about your weight, too. Last year, the foundation carried out tests proving that bubble tea is — brace yourselves — high on calories. Imagine that. It’s packed with so much cream and sugar that it’s a miracle there’s any room for tea. Drink it every day for 20 days and you’ll gain 1kg, the group concluded (I have taken the warning to heart and limit myself to 19 days plus one day’s rest).

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