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kongli

Food safety in China.

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gato
To put in simple' date=' I buy what my parents and my grand parents have been buying, normal food, as it seems to me that they haven't suffered too much from what they have been eating. [/quote']

I thought that you live in the US?

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aristotle1990
What about Hong Kong? Does it import most of its food from mainland?

To (partly) answer your question:

Vegetables mostly coming from the mainland contain high levels of potentially harmful heavy metals.Baptist University made the findings, and they came just a week after tests by City Polytechnic showed toxic levels of cadmium in shellfish.

The latest test covered 93 vegetables, including cauliflower and Chinese kale, which were bought from local farms, wet markets and supermarkets in September.

The level of cadmium of a sample of Indian lettuce from the mainland was found to be 2.4 times the safety limit set by the government and surpassed the European Union limit.

Lead content of another 11 samples exceeded the safety EU limit, but was still below the government limit. Ten of those samples came from the mainland, and one from a local farm.

Jonathan Wong Woon-chung, a biology professor at Baptist University, urged the government to step up monitoring work.

"Ninety percent of vegetables in Hong Kong are imported from the mainland," he said. "The result demonstrates that lead pollution on mainland farm produce is serious."

Wong also said the safety limit of lead should be updated as it is far behind the EU standard.

Cadmium comes from fertilizers, while lead is mainly from air pollution or the irrigation of polluted water. Excess cadmium may cause kidney stones, while excess lead can affect brain activity of children.

Wong recommends eating no more than 3,766 grams of vegetables for adults each day and no more than 238g for children.

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gato

Nice. I'll try to keep my veggie consumption under 3.766 kg per day. B)

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paike

At a recent May first holiday wedding I met a guy who works for the Shenyang food safety bureau. He said he has no idea whether the food is safe or not. They eat dinner together, have a good time and the products are deemed safe. He couldn't remember not letting people sell their goods.

I can not verify this with three internet links.

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kongli

Damn, well summer is coming around and the price of water melon should be going down so maybe I can just live off that for a couple months.

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xiaocai

@ gato:

Haha, no I don't. Only have been there for short trips.

As for safety standard, it can be relative sometimes. Stevia is banned in EU but widely used in many other countries. It is banned in Hong Kong BTW. One of the beta agonists used to promote lean meat growth Ractopamine is permitted in the US but not in EU.

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amandagmu

@rezaf re: organic food labeling: the dude I spoke with said that the organic label thing is out of control -- no one really seems to know what it means, but they know it sells. He said that he has actually asked several farms and companies in the BJ area, for example, what makes their food organic and they either can't answer or say that it's made on a local farm (or some random other answer). He did note, however, that with some investigation one can find legitimate organic farms in this area, it just takes time and patience and asking these questions directly to the company managers.

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aristotle1990

Food looks too nice? You're out of luck:

"It is hard to observe whether the vegetable contains high levels of the heavy metals, but if its appearance looks too nice, it may contain the heavy metals," he said.

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Scoobyqueen

The problem with organic food from the consumers' point of view is that it doesnt taste any different from non-oganic products. You have to rely on the label purely.

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rezaf

I always wonder why the organic veggies that I buy don't have any insects.

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Lu
@rezaf re: organic food labeling: the dude I spoke with said that the organic label thing is out of control -- no one really seems to know what it means, but they know it sells. He said that he has actually asked several farms and companies in the BJ area, for example, what makes their food organic and they either can't answer or say that it's made on a local farm (or some random other answer).
At a lecture I was at about a year ago it was explained that there is not really a standard for what 'organic' really means, and it might mean anything from strictly organic as it would be seen in the West to meaning that it's bought directly from the farmer who still puts god knows what on the veggies. And that's assuming it's not outright fake.

Today I saw an article on Boxun (can't link to it as I don't have a VPN at home) on food safety, a student studying nutrition (I think) wrote that there was always a fresh example straight from the news for his food safety class.

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aristotle1990
Maybe we can call it the "heavy metal look".

?

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skylee

re aristotle's post at #22. Nowadays I suppose only the Standard would call the City University "City Polytechnic".

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tooironic

Has anyone considered that the supposed rising levels of cancer in China could have anything to do with the rising levels of junk food from the West? Or the hundreds of other possible factors? Chinese people have eaten Chinese food for a long time and they seem OK to me.

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langxia
Has anyone considered that the supposed rising levels of cancer in China could have anything to do with the rising levels of junk food from the West? Or the hundreds of other possible factors? Chinese people have eaten Chinese food for a long time and they seem OK to me.

There can be many reasons behind rising levels of cancer, one that comes to mind is that people probably get older than they did back in the time thus more people able to develop cancer when they are older. Another factor might be a better health coverage, if you have more people who can go and see a doctor who can make the appropriate tests to diagnose cancer the level will be rising. (I have no idea how the health coverage was in the last 10-20 years in china but my guess is that it was probably not as good as today)

Also isn't cancer more something you develop over a long period of time ? So actually the pollution and what not from today will only start to show in cancer rates in 10-20 years ?

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knickherboots

In Beijing, if you're really concerned about getting vegetables that weren't grown in, say, fertilizer that contains industrial waste, you can join a group that sources its products from a limited number of places or even a single farm, which you can even visit. These groups seem to be getting more popular. As a matter of fact, as I write this, I'm thinking this might not be a bad idea for my family. Anyway, here's a link to a relevant article from last May.

Organic Veggies in Beijing

We eat a lot of fruit, which gets peeled or thoroughly washed, which is just common sense for anyone living in Asia. If the strawberry has a chemical taste, ah, just throw out the lot. (Does fruit pick up heavy metals? Hmm.)

We buy imported milk. Not expensive, but neither is it fresh. For soy sauce and other condiments, we try to buy the more expensive stuff and established brands, for whatever that's worth. (At least they tend to taste better.)

We take our chance on meat and fish bought from Carrefour and the local wet market. Local beef that tastes good is hard enough to find--who knows about provenance? So we don't eat much, and I generally avoid it in restaurants because it is either tough as shoe leather or softened with meat tenderizer (mostly starch) to the point of tasteless mushiness. I think most of the chicken parts sold here are imported frozen (from the U.S. and elsewhere), and chicken breasts are cheap, so that's an easy way to get a safe and inexpensive animal protein fix (provided you trust the imported chicken).

China also imports most of its soybeans, and I haven't heard of any benefits of adulterating soybeans to make dofu, but maybe enterprising Chinese have come up with a way.

People say that the situation is better in Beijing and other big cities, in part because the government is concerned about uppity townies who might go on the rampage.

On one hand, problems with adulterated or unclean food are not unique to China. I've lived in places with e-coli problems in spinach and ground beef (U.S.) and unclean milk (Japan). But the difference is that, in the other places where I've lived, the problem has largely been one of negligence: spinach wasn't thoroughly cleaned, the machine that ground the meat was dirty, the equipment used for processing the milk products was not checked or cleaned properly. Here, in China, some people make an extra effort to consciously deceive consumers to make another buck, and the government simply cannot cut heads off fast enough to stem the tide. It might be different in a less autocratic system where "citizens" could exercise a wider range of rights and hold regulatory authorities accountable. Maybe someday.

Oh, and if you really want to make sure you get safe food in China, you might consider moving to Zhongnanhai. I think that the food there is subject to a strict system of supply-chain accountability and safety checks.

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skylee
But the difference is that, in the other places where I've lived, the problem has largely been one of negligence: spinach wasn't thoroughly cleaned, the machine that ground the meat was dirty, the equipment used for processing the milk products was not checked or cleaned properly. Here, in China, some people make an extra effort to consciously deceive consumers to make another buck,

I agree. And it seems that these people are usually quite clever but just don't like to put their efforts in making honest money.

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DullM

What about Hong Kong? Does it import most of its food from mainland?

They import a lot from China. Those products come from a "licensed farmland" which is designated to supply food to hong kong and partially under the supervision of HK Gov't.

The Chinese keep the worst, and export the best of what they have -- that's what I've often heard from my friends. And to some extents it is true.

Once I helped my friend to locate the source of candies from China. There were two prices: one for export, another one for "internal sales". The exported goods can be 70-100% more expensive than the local products.

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gougou
The Chinese keep the worst, and export the best of what they have -- that's what I've often heard from my friends.
That's probably true on a big picture, but I also remember reading reports about farmers that knew their rice was polluted, sold all of it, and bought rice from elsewhere for their own consumption. Scary...

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