By Kim Rahn
Citizens were shocked by the news of a rat's head being found in one of the nation's best-selling snacks. But a consumer report showed that the finding of the foreign object in the snack was not that surprising as the maker, Nongshim has been the subject of the most complaints from consumers about unsanitary products so far.
The Consumers Union of Korea received 1,980 reports and complaints about the unsafe condition of processed food between August 2007 and January this year. Among them, 1,071, or 54 percent, were foods containing foreign substances, the group said.
Of the cases, 58 were products manufactured by Nongshim, the nation's largest snack maker, the largest among the nation's total distributors and food or beverage makers.
The 58 cases were: 38 involving bugs; eight with unidentified materials; two each with mold, iron fragments, plastic shards and plastic bag pieces; and one each with hair, flies, bone, and staples.
Nongshim was followed by Namyang Dairy Products with 50 reports of non-food substances, Maeil Dairies with 43, Orion Confectionary with 33, Haitai Confectionary & Foods with 25, Lotte Confectionary with 24 and Lotte Chilsung with 22. The most frequently found foreign objects were insects, with 338 reports in total.
Nongshim came under fire after a 1.6-centimeter-long piece of gray matter was found inside a jumbo-sized snack, ``Saewookkang'' (shrimp snack) last month. The company said the snack in question was made in its Chinese plant.
The small object was covered in oil and had burnt hair with the remains of eyes and a nose, which led the Korea Food and Drug Administration to conclude it to be the head of a rat.
The company shut down the snack production line, but customers are now shunning buying any snacks, not only those made by Nongshim but also by all other makers.