It’s one thing to know about them; it’s a totally different story when you actually have to live with the food safety risks in China. But because you love your Chinese wife, you brave through the various food scandals and even more food safety issues in China. It’s not like there is completely nothing you can do about it, though. Being aware and knowing better, there are some steps you can take to make sure that the worse you’ll get is an upset stomach a few times a month.
First things first, stop whining about the food safety situation in China and start figuring out ways to make the best of what you have. Fact is, you’re a lot better off than the poor locals who literally don’t have much choice about the food they eat. Sure, the situation may be so much better back home; but a lot of things back there are also so much worse than in the Middle Kingdom.
Presumably, you’re not so loaded that you can afford to eat only imported food day in and day out. If you live in Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, or any other westernized city in China, you’ll have easy access to foreign brands. Otherwise, you’ll have to develop your own system of minimizing food safety risks. Home cooking, of course, is a must. But you’ll still have to purchase ingredients locally.
Find a trustworthy vendor or producer, or both, of fresh ingredients and cultivate a good relationship with them. Whether you’re buying your produce from a street market or a supermarket, always wash the fruits and vegetables thoroughly as soon as you get home and before storing them, and then again before using them. Do the same with eggs, meat, and seafood.
With meat, you can’t completely trust vendors that have certificates on their walls, unless you’re nearly 100 percent sure that the person is a standup guy and businessman. Try to find a local import store that sells meat in bulk at a more affordable price. You may be able to afford to buy imported chicken because it’s always cheaper than beef and pork; you can also simply start consuming beef and pork less frequently.
When it comes to milk, if you can afford to only drink imported brands then stick with imported brands. Otherwise, choose big domestic brands (this really becomes more about choosing the lesser evil because you can never be sure with Chinese products).If you have kids, though, give them the imported stuff.
For packaged food products, again, unless you can afford to only buy foreign brands, get them only from the big supermarkets. Find out as early as you can which domestic brands are the most reliable with regards to quality and safety. When it comes to drinking water, find a store that will sell you filtered/distilled water that comes in the big, blue containers – those that look like the bottled water used in office water dispensers. (It wasn’t long ago that these bottle water dispenser bottle were also emitting poison, but recently that has been largely corrected.)
Avoid street food as much as possible; unless you’ve already tried the local vendor and you didn’t suffer from any stomach problems afterward. All the same, limit your consumption. When eating at local restaurants, go to those that are frequented by most of the locals. Again, if you suffer from digestive problems after eating at a particular place, don’t go back there anymore.
If you find a Chinese person, such as a co-worker or a neighbor, who is also careful about the food he/she eats, be his/her best friend. He/she is an invaluable resource for all things related to food safety in China, particularly in your local community.
Wherever you are, it’s about taking the good with the bad. There are food safety issues in every country, it’s how you deal with it that makes the difference. While no strategy will ensure 100 percent food safety, at least do something to minimize the risks. Of course, practice these safety measures with your wife and help her understand why, if she’s not yet aware.
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