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It tastes just the way centuries ago

By Huang Beibei (People's Daily Online)

13:07, July 10, 2012

Chen Wanfu, Vice President of Xiangxi Vinegar Co., Ltd., shows vinegar which is left to ferment and mature for years. (Huang Beibei/People's Daily Online)

Food safety has long been a problem haunting China, where the total value of the domestic food industry reached 5 trillion yuan in 2009, equating to more than 9 percent of the country's industrial gross output that year, according to official figures.

The most recent high-profile scandals involved illegally recycled cooking oil and contaminated vegetables.

Vinegar industry is no exception.

Shanxi laochen cu, or aged vinegar from Shanxi, is known not only as a condiment and ingredient widely used in Chinese cuisine, but it is recorded in Chinese pharmacopeia as having many health benefits. Last year, with Wang Jianzhong, former vice chairman of the Shanxi provincial vinegar business association reported to have said that 95 percent of "aged vinegar" made in Shanxi Province was blended with glacial acetic acid, an additive that reduces the fermenting time from over one year to just one month, Chinese consumers were shocked once again.

Despite all these, deep in the misty mountains in central China's Hunan Province, some vinegar-makers still adhere to the method their ancestors passed down for centuries.

Here at Xiangxi Vinegar Co., Ltd., the vinegar is left to ferment and mature for years before it can be sold. So the "youngest" vinegar would already have gone through a long process of manufacture and maturing.

Without adding salt, colorings, preservatives, flavors, the reddish brown colored vinegar fermented for more than two years, and products include original balsamic vinegar, organic vinegar, citrus vinegar beverages that tastes just the way centuries ago.

The factory is a locally oriented business which use locally grown citrus as source material, hire local farmers who grow citrus for the companies and even the boss himself is born and raised up here.

52-year old farmer Tian Yinglong said working in the factory helps him earn another 15,000 yuan each year besides income from growing citrus, and his coworkers are from the same village near here.

Vinegar like this not only brings flavor to the dinner table but also keeps worry about food safety away.

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