China: Salt Radiation Rumors Fuel Widespread Panic Buying

Written by John Kennedy

This post is part of our special coverage Japan Earthquake 2011.

Reactions in China to the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accidents in Japan have been both ugly and humane, and feelings toward the country remain complex.

The devastation has also been seen by some as an opportunity to make a statement about the future. The most visible impact of Japan's earthquake in China, however, came Wednesday night after state media addressed the possibility not of radiation being China through the air, but rumors that China's salt supply will soon be exposed to radiation along the east coast.

The fact that state media were used to tell China not to worry about the safety of the future salt supply seems to have had the opposite effect, and led to mass panic buying of salt in several cities, which spread as rumors went unabated. The spectacle, particularly the silliness of it, dominated [zh] discussion on Weibo and most other online spaces all of Wednesday night, and Weibo staff began deleting most salt panic tweets as soon as they appeared, apparently fueling the frenzy. Sina Weibo's own official account tasked with refuting online rumors had yet to mention the salt panic by midnight Wednesday.

Here are a few rescued tweets:

In places all over Zhejiang province today from this afternoon through to the evening, a wave of panic buying of salt suddenly appeared…someone needs to refute the rumors.

Silly urban residents are going insane rushing to buy salt, afraid that all sea salt from today on will have been exposed to radiation. I would hope people could be a bit more rational and not jump on the idiotic panic buying bandwagon. I took this photo at 9:35 tonight at the local department store here in Guangzhou.

Silly city people panic buying salt, afraid that all sea salt from today on will have been exposed to radiation. People, please keep your wits about you, don't jump on the idiotic panic buying bandwagon, don't contribute to the panic or the chaos. This was taken at 9pm at the Xicun TrustMart in Guangzhou, where kitchen salt got snatched up clean in a few seconds.


ShanghaiJC: I went out after 9 PM to snatch up some salt, turns out every place was already sold out. Shanghai is now completely out of salt. The picture is from Carrefour, which was picked clean of more than 10 brands of salt. Tragic.

From the scene of the salt panic in Ningbo, damnit. It's gone way too overboard.
Toefool: 大伯在深圳开了家超市,打电话说深圳开始抢盐了,十块钱一包,让我们在家乡也赶紧去买。家乡的几家亲戚听到后马上去抢购了二十几包。

My uncle in Shenzhen runs a supermarket, he called to tell me that the salt panic has reached Shenzhen too, selling for RMB 10 a bag. He told us to make sure we have salt back in the hometown. Relatives there as soon as they heard rushed out and bought 20 bags.
Happy葇:现在大家疯狂的抢购盐,不是说是谣言吗?怎么大家都相信盐会被污染,刚刚家乡的亲戚打电话来说,家乡的盐现在卖18元一包,还有人买十箱回家,这边的商店一些也不卖盐了,Oh my god……

People everywhere have gone insane and are rushing to buy salt. Didn't they say this was just a rumor? Why does everybody think the salt has been tainted? Just now my relatives from the countryside phoned to say that salt out there is gong for RMB 18 a bag, and some people took 10 boxes of it home. Some shops here have even stopped selling their salt. Oh my god….

Wenzhou microblogger thalorfield, retweeted by the official China International Relief and Rescue Squad (CIRRS) microblog account:
今天浙江地区普遍出现的抢购食用盐及调味品现象是由于谣传海边受辐射不能再晒盐了。清醒的人都知道我们吃的都不是杭州湾自产的海盐了!!!为了让谣言平息下去,请一定帮忙转发!!拜托了! ——管理员:没听说我国受到日本核辐射,新闻说一切监测正常!

Widespread panic buying of kitchen salt and other condiments took place today in areas across Zhejiang province, apparently the result of rumors that salt can no longer be harvested from the coast due to radiation. Those thinking soberly will know that the salt we eat doesn't come straight from Hangzhou Bay!!! In order to stop these rumors, please retweet this!! Please! —Mgmnt: We haven't heard any news that radiation from Japan has reached China, the news said that all tests showed normal results!

Also from the CIRRS account:

The Japanese aren't panic buying salt, so why have we started? Japan is quite far from Ningbo, please stop. Our salt comes from Qinghai, and there's no shortage of it. Please volunteer to help quickly put out this disaster. Thank you.

This photo comes from Sina's Finance News channel, which quotes one netizen:

【杭州食盐遭疯狂抢购 网友称价格翻倍都买不到】网友向记者爆料称,“大家都在抢盐,盐的价格翻了一倍,想买都买不到。她一个朋友家里开超市的,刚进了4箱盐,一下子被抢光了”。记者随后在杭州的几家大超市了解到,世纪联华、华润万家、欧尚等几家大超市的食盐也全部卖光了。

“Everyone is snatching up salt, and the price has already doubled, you can't even buy salt now if you want to. A friend of hers' family runs a supermarket and they just got four crates of salt. It was gone in a split second.” The reporter then discovered that all major supermarkets in Hangzhou are now sold out of salt.

This post is part of our special coverage Japan Earthquake 2011.

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