Shanghai's mouldy Covid-19 food packages prompt outcry from public

Some residents complained on social media about stomachaches and diarrhoea after eating food they had received. PHOTOS: WEIBO

SHANGHAI (BLOOMBERG) - Officials ordered some Shanghai neighbourhoods to throw away food they received from the government after complaints about quality issues, adding to frustration among residents locked in their homes for weeks as the city struggles to tame the country's worst virus outbreak.

At least two districts in Shanghai's east warned residents about problems with mouldy braised duck and meatballs or issues with the packaging of food that had been distributed by the government to compounds still in lockdown, according to official notices seen by Bloomberg News.

Some residents complained on social media about stomachaches and diarrhoea after eating food they had received on Wednesday (April 20).

It is one of the top topics on China's Internet on Thursday, with the hashtag of netizens calling for a probe garnering more than 100 million views on the Twitter-like Weibo platform. The authorities have said they will investigate the issue.

Shanghai's response to a record coronavirus outbreak has been to impose an unprecedented lockdown that has brought a hefty social and economic toll to the financial hub.

It has also spiralled into a logistical nightmare as the city's 25 million residents - sealed off in their homes for several weeks - struggled to order basic groceries and government packages were not reliably delivered.

The simmering anger has also led to some of the strongest anti-government criticism in years from a public growing weary of harsh virus measures.

On WeChat, posts about mouldy marinated duck from a manufacturer whose license has expired, and cooking oil and meatballs made by little-known producers, have circulated since Wednesday.

Pudong district, located in Shanghai's east and covering its financial district and industrial parks, has opened a probe into problems with government-distributed food packages.

In the south-western district of Minhang, two local government officials were fired earlier this week over sub-quality pork delivered to communities. A retailer responsible for providing food to a western area issued a letter on Thursday apologising for the quality of rice noodles it distributed for the government.

"The market regulator will investigate and punish this kind of violation strictly and fast," Ms Tao Ailian, an official at Shanghai's market regulator, said at a briefing on Wednesday.

The regulator has issued guidance for procuring and distributing fresh food packages, requiring organisers and producers to ensure food safety.

The fresh gripes over food supply come as the daily case tally moderates but deaths increase.

Infections have fallen for four consecutive days to 18,495 on Thursday. Another eight people died, bringing fatalities in the current wave to 25. The number of patients in severe or critical condition tripled to 159.

While Shanghai has made tentative moves to ease restrictions in some sectors, including allowing some factories to restart operations, there's no indication of when the lockdown will be fully lifted.

About two-thirds of the city's population remain under a lockdown that initially started in the city's east in late-March.

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