Food Quality & Safety in China
Food quality in China is a big issue. The fairly recent scandal that broke out over poisonous pet food being exported to America is not an isolated case, at least not within the borders of China. If you are living in China, you must be careful about the food.
A Huge Problem in China: Fake Food
While I sympathize with those who were unfortunate enough to see their beloved pets pass away due to poisoned food from China, Americans and much of the world are better off than the approximately 1.3 billion consumers in China.
Living in China, I have learned that anything can be faked here. In terms of food, that includes even the cheapest of things like eggs. Who would make fake eggs? Real ones are not that expensive to ‘make’ in the first place.
Of course the saddest instances of fake food in China has been the fake baby formula scandals. China has already taken steps to resolve this issue, but I still would be very hesitant to buy most baby formulas in China. If you want to know more, check out this translation from last year.
Also there is this from an article in this week’s Economist:
As Mr Zheng’s case—which did not involve exports—showed, this is not purely a problem for foreigners who buy Chinese products. It is a safe to say that many more Chinese people than foreigners are harmed by ingesting toxic or substandard foods and drugs each year. In one particularly tragic case in Anhui in 2004, for example, several babies died of malnutrition after consuming fake baby-milk powder. Investigative programmes exposing factories, farms and restaurants engaged in various nefarious practices with food are a stomach-churning staple of Chinese television.
How to Protect Yourself from Bad Food in China
So what can you do to make sure you avoid the worst of the fake food problems the world over, whether you are living overseas (in the States), an expat in China, or a Chinese person?
The solution, really, is simple. Stick with big brands that you can trust. While it is possible that there will be some bad food that slips through their internal and supplier quality control systems, the larger brands have much more incentive to provide what they say they are providing. And since they sell food on such a massive scale, problems will quickly come to light.
Food problems from smaller companies are much more likely to either never be discovered or found out too late.
When it comes to something as important as the substances we depend on for survival, don’t be cheap.
Extra Advice for Expats in China
While it is all good and fine to emphasize buying trusted brands (and in China, make sure to check the packaging – even trusted brands are faked) for your own cooking, it is hard to avoid counterfeit food entirely when living here.
I understand your pain. It scares me to think of the quality of food that goes into corner dives or even some nicer restaurant. But this is just one of the (many) dangers of living here. China is not still called a developing country for nothing.