Friday, 18 March 2011

Frantic... for Salt

In the last day or so the media here have been reporting people in China, Hong Kong and Macau are buying up whatever salt and rice they can fearing the next batch for sale will be contaminated by radioactive rain from Japan.

The rumour spread like wildfire in major Chinese cities and soon shelves previously stocked with salt were completely empty and there were scenes of chaos as shoppers fought over supplies in Beijing.

Officials in both Hong Kong and China issued public statements trying to refute concerns about radiation poisoning and the need to stockpile salt. But this hardly did anything to ease the situation.

"I hadn't heard about the salt shortage until then, but as soon as I heard it, I raced out to get some," said one housewife in Shanghai. "I only have a small amount left in the kitchen, and I just don't know how I'll cook if I run out. I have been to several shops already, but no one has any left. I am getting quite nervous now because I think I am too late."

In Guangzhou, shops normally sell on average 180 to 200 tonnes of salt per day, but on Wednesday it was more than 500 tonnes and probably just as much yesterday.

In Hong Kong lots of people, mostly the elderly lined up in front of condiment shops and supermarkets from early morning, even though the salt was being sold between two and 10 times the regular price.

"I don't know what the salt can be used for. But people are snatching, so I'd better hurry," said one elderly woman.

The people believed that ingesting salt, which contains some iodine, would help ward off the effects of radiation, as the workers in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have to take potassium iodide tablets to lessen the impact of radiation poisoning.

However, Hong Kong Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok tried to appeal to people to use their common sense.

"Eating too much salt can cause hypertension and kidney disease," he said. "I think buying large quantities of salt for whatever reason is totally unfounded."

Undersecretary for Food and Health Professor Gabriel Leung added that a person would need to eat 5kg of salt to absorb the amount of iodine contained in an iodine tablet.

Perhaps they'd need to drink gallons of water with all that salt...

Meanwhile a friend from Beijing sent me this little joke he translated from the Chinese:

"A man went on a blind date and the woman asked him, 'What do you have? A house? A car? Enough money?' The man replied, 'Nothing... but salt'."

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