Looking slick

smartchopsticks w

Many of the services and products developed by China’s leading search engine Baidu have borne an uncanny resemblance to those offered by Google, its international rival.

But last week Baidu’s chief executive Robin Li unveiled a product with truly Chinese characteristics – a pair of smart chopsticks. Called “Kuaisou” in Chinese, they apparently tell you if the food you are about to eat is safe.

The video demonstration shows the chopsticks first being dipped into a glass of olive oil. Via a smartphone, the oil is reported as safe. But when the chopsticks are submerged in a glass of “gutter oil” – recycled from drains – the danger signal soon flashes.

China has experienced a series of appalling food scandals, with gutter oil becoming a major public concern in late 2011 (see WiC123). The scandal has persisted, with suggestions that it is representative of China’s lax food safety standards. But news that one of Taiwan’s leading lard manufacturers, Chang Guann Co, has also been using gutter oil has demonstrated that the practice isn’t confined to mainland China.

“This shows Taiwan is truly part of China,” one netizen quipped. “One China, one dream for clean food. We are finally united,” wrote another.

Others joked that Baidu’s new chopsticks could lead to dramatic weight loss across the country. “I know half the food I eat isn’t safe, but I’d rather be full than starve,” wrote one.

The chopsticks aren’t ready for mass production but Baidu is hopeful that they will be able to measure PH levels, temperature and calorie count in future.

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