Sat, Sep 13, 2008 - Page 2 News List

FEATURE: To grill or not to grill: a Mid-Autumn dilemma

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

To barbecue or not to barbecue seems to be a dilemma for many over this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival, bearing in mind the government’s campaign to cut emissions of carbon dioxide.

The popular practice of grilling on the Mid-Autumn Festival started 20 years ago as an unexpected result of an advertising war between two of the nation’s largest soy sauce companies. Kimlan Food (金蘭食品) attempted to sell its new barbecue sauce by launching a series of television ads just before the Mid-Autumn Festival holidays.

Wajashan Food (萬家香食品), on the other hand, responded by coming up with a catchy phrase for its own barbecue sauce: “When one household grills, 10 million households smell the fragrance [一家烤肉,萬家香].”

Today, the Mid-Autumn Festival is known more as a nationwide grilling fest than a time for families to consume moon cakes and watch the full moon rise together.

Since the ads, the Mid-Autumn Festival barbecue has become a sort of a tradition. Then, two years ago, a report issued by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) suggested that carbon monoxide accounted for 50 percent of all pollutants in the air on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival. The same density could only be produced if one-and-a-half times the total number of motorcycles in Taipei hit the road together.

The EPA also indicated in the report that charcoal consumed by the annual grilling fest would deplete 2,260 hectares of forest, equivalent to 87 Daan Forest Parks.

And even though the government did not ban grilling, it began to discourage the public from continuing the practice.

But what the government perceived as an effective measure to protect the environment has not only induced the ire of grilling enthusiasts, but also upset environmentalists.

“The Mid-Autumn Festival wouldn’t be the same without a barbecue,” Taipei resident Aicky Chen (陳嘉玲) said.

“We only do this once a year,” said Amy Kuo (郭曉蓓), a Taipei County resident. “I feel weird if I don’t get to grill.”

Pig farmers have also been hit by the government’s campaign to deter grilling.

Pan Lien-chou (潘連周), president of the pig farmers’ association, said sales of pork had dropped 10 percent this year.

Pan said the association is scheduled to host a barbecue tomorrow near Formosa Group’s ethylene plant in Mailiao to protest against the unreasonable policy.

“The carbon dioxide the plant produces is 20 times more than the amount that could be produced during the Mid-Autumn Festival,” he said.

Gloria Hsu (徐光蓉), a director of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, said that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) policy to conserve energy and reduce carbon dioxide emissions only imposed responsibility on the public. Hsu said that 60 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions come from the high-energy consuming industries, such as steel or petroleum plants. Only about 10 percent of emissions come from households.

Health specialists, meanwhile, highlight the risks of eating barbecued food.

Lin Chieh-liang (林杰樑), a toxicologist at Linkou’s Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, said the nutrients contained in the food are transmuted into harmful substances. Grease produces polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are believed to be one of the main substances that cause lung cancer.

But with Super Typhoon Sinlaku forecast to bring rain nationwide this weekend, “to grill or not to grill” might turn out not to be a question that is asked this year after all.

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