In mid-January 2004, a team of journalists of the “Weekly Quality Report” program from the state-run China Central Television (CCTV) investigated the production of the Hongshuai Soy Sauce. The Chinese journalists went to the food seasoning manufacturer in Hubei province. They pretended to be buyers and enquired about the soy sauce ingredients. They were told by a manager that the soy sauce was made from the amino acid syrup, and mixed with water, sodium hydroxide, red sugar; hydrochloric acid and other chemical additives. They also learnt that the soy sauce manufacturer purchased at least a thousand tons of amino acid syrup (or powder – the dry form) per month from another manufacturer in producing few thousands tons of soy sauce. As a result of the preliminary investigation, the journalists decided to explore the source of amino acid syrup.
The source was human hair. But wait, it gets better.
Because the human hair was gathered from salons, barbershops and hospitals around the country, it was unhygienic and mixed with condoms, used hospital cottons, used menstrual cycle pads, used syringes, etc. After being filtered by the workers, the hair would then be cut small for processing into amino acid syrup.
But what the article doesn't mention, but which I believe to be true, is that soy sauce isn't the only food product made out of this cheap hair-made amino acid powder. The stuff is also sold in large quantities to the bakery industry which uses it as a source of L-cysteine to make dough softer and more elastic. Think about that next time you're chewing on a bagel.