11/09/18: Passengers complain of ‘seriously mouldy’ ready meals on board high-speed rail

Two passengers on a high-speed train from Beijing were served “seriously mouldy” rice, which left one of the men with food poisoning.

The two men, surnamed Zhu and Xia, bought the ready meals for 40 yuan (US$5.80) each while travelling on the train to Wuhan on Saturday evening, Hubei Daily reports.

Zhu complained to rail staff that the rice in the meal box was “seriously mouldy”, the report said, and received an apology and a refund from the chief conductor. Rail staff offered them two alternative meal packs, but this offer was rejected.

Xia had already eaten half his meal before he spotted there was a problem and soon started vomiting and suffered from diarrhoea.

China Railway Guangzhou Group, which manages the rail line, said on its microblog account on Sunday that it has stopped offering ready meals from the batch that included the mouldy food and has suspended supplies from the supplier Shanghai Xincheng Food Company.

The case aroused the attention of the country’s rail authority, which has urged the railway company to investigate and to publish the results once the investigation is finished.

Chinese media outlets have frequently criticised the food on offer on the high-speed rail network both as poor value for money and for having expiry periods of as long as 90 days.

It’s not clear when the meals at the centre of the latest case were produced.

Zhang Shunjun, a spokesman for Shanghai Xincheng Food Company, said the market supervisory authority of Shanghai had visited the company on Monday and taken away product samples and production logs.

“We are cooperating with the authorities’ investigation,” he said.

Xincheng has been providing meals to the mainland rail companies since 2007 and is one of the main food suppliers to China Railway Guangzhou Group, according to Zhang.

He said his company used Japanese technology to produce meals that can be stored at normal temperatures for up to 90 days.

While producing the meals, bacteria is sterilised and the air is drawn out from the food package before inactive gas is replenished.

“Our meal boxes are legal and meet food safety standards,” said Zhang. “The only thing is that the public has a psychological barrier to accepting that a lunchbox has been kept for three months.”

He said his guess was that the rice had gone off because the packaging had been damaged.

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