Soy Sauce from Human Hair

I don’t know — maybe I missed it — but I haven’t noticed this story yet in any of the mainland blogs that I read. Several friends back in the States have mentioned it to me, and so have several Chinese friends. Yet Google News turned up absolutely nothing for all my searches. I finally found one very short article which discusses it (via Dan, via, reportedly, though I can’t find the story on their site). That article is so short that I quote it here in its entirety:

China has ordered a crackdown on domestic ingredient makers after it was discovered one plant had been illegally producing a base for soy sauce made out of human hair.

Apparently this happened in Hubei province. The company discovered that human hair contains amino acids very similar to soy sauce. They could obtain hair from barber shops, boil the amino acids out, then add that to a water/brown sugar/salt mixture, add a little coloring, and viola! — “soy sauce” that meets China’s national standards, without the pesky fermentation process. This unorthodox method of obtaining amino acids came as a result of a huge demand for it in China.

Unfortunately for the company, besides just plain being a disgusting thing to eat, human hair also contains harmful substances.

A quote on “QS” (quality standards) from Beijing’s China Condiment Association Secretary, Bai Yan:

Previously, when the quality inspection bureau tested Beijing’s soy sauce products, more than 90% met the standard. Before that, it also tested the soy sauce from all over the country, and over 60% met the standard. Customers can use the majority of the output produced by official businesses. There’s no need for concern; it’s reliable.

For those living in China, the soy sauce brand name to avoid is 红帅 (hong shuai).

Chinese News Links:

  • provides CCTV video.
  • This link provides an (indirectly related) picture, but it’s the same story you’ll find in a multitude of Chinese news sites, originally published in 北京娱乐信报, and is also the main source for this article.
  • 繁体 editorial.

The story in English, via anonymous reader comment.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. wow. i hope all the mayonnaise sold in china is imported.

  2. Ew and… ew! If they make soy sauce out of hair, who knows what they make that ‘la sauce’ at the jiaozi place on Trash Pile Road out of. My stomach churns at the thought…

  3. Da Xiangchang Says: February 20, 2004 at 9:02 am

    As long as I know those Chinese aphrodisiacs I’ve been taking are made from authentic seal penises–and NOT human penises–I’m happy.

  4. hehe…it’s a good thing i’m a fish sauce and not a soy sauce person. thanks for the post, going over acids and bases in my bio class. going to mention it to the kids, they’ll love it.

    guess i should bring some soy sauce for them to test with litmus paper…

  5. whew. i just checked. our soy sauce is brewed in wisconsin.

  6. I kind of enjoy it in food. Dubs as floss.

  7. I can’t have nothin’.

  8. Oh, BTW, did cover this, like a month ago. I missed it somehow.

  9. Could someone post an exact recipe for that shit? I’m interested in making it at home… gotta find something to do with all that wasted shaved and falling out hair!!!

  10. […] reportaje hecho con cámara oculta en el que el reportero visitaba una fábrica China en la que se usaban kilos y kilos de cabello humano para hacer salsa de soja que, obviamente, luego era distribuida por todo el país y exportada a sus […]

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