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this chinese food kinda tastes like cardboard"

amusing yes, and scary as well.

http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asi...

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  1. Yeah, I just read it. Crazy!

    1. Nah, we don't need country of origin labeling laws, other countries will police themselves.

      1 Reply
      1. now here's the twist: how much of the food we eat on a regular basis (bought in a supermarket or from a can, frozen, processed, ready-made, supplied to a restaurant and then reheated for us, etc.) has the same sort of fillers, additives, chemicals, preservatives, etc.? is it more distubing because it seems artisanal (local friendly street vendor) or is it the same if a factory or food conglomerate does the same thing, but puts it in pretty packaging?

        2 Replies
        1. re: bigjeff

          I can certainly appreciate the sentiment as we do likely consume too much on the way of preservatives and additives, etc. However, I don't think you can quite compare a (theoretically) FDA approved food additive to industrial chemical softened cardboard...

          The news article was scary scary stuff. Given the recent reports about shady industry practices in China in general I wonder how widespread this is and how much of it is media hype...

          1. re: Ladycale

            to add information, the chemical in question, caustic soda, seems to be found all over the place (granted, in industrial applications) but also in various food preparations.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_h...

            now, picking up cardboard from the street, to mix with the stuff? whole different game. This particular story, on top of all the other stories about chinese exports (bad toothpaste, dog food, etc.) is quite scary, and what with the recent execution of a chinese party official as scapegoat for some of these incidents, there's plenty of spotlight. as to whether FDA or DOH approval actually means anything in this country (and it does, but the FDA's power is also diluted by the agribusiness industry and its whims), where does it apply to some of our favorite chowfinds (arepa ladies included)?

            I'd have to say overall though, the more spotlight and exposure of these practices (and preferably all over the world, please) the better. Especially when Wal-Mart wants to green its entire food inventory and become the largest purveyor of "organic" goods (a large part of which will be produced in china), accurate sourcing is incredibly important.

            1. re: tochipotle

              right on, just read this on reuters:

              http://www.reuters.com/article/latest...

              so what does all this mean after all? I certainly believed it, hahaha!

              1. re: bigjeff

                I can't tell you how relieved I am. For some irrational reason this story horrified me more than previous stories about shady industrial food practices.

                I wonder how much trouble this guy is going to get into...

            2. OK....so who do I believe? The original report, or the paranoid self serving Chinese government which is trying to refute it during a worldwide crisis in Chinese food safety?

              I'm Chinese. I really, really want to keep eating my food, but I'm finding it awfully hard to put that stuff in my mouth and my little girl's mouth nowadays.

              1 Reply
              1. re: tomishungry

                Good question. I'm Chinese-American and this issue concerns me as well. This particular bao issue probably wouldn't have affected me so I'm not sure if it matters in the long run who to believe. I think the thing to worry about is all the *other* press China has been getting concerning recent issues. Like this food safety crackdown: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/28/bus...

              2. Okay, so one is left to wonder how true, authentic and relevant the original story was. One probably needs to balance the story with the hysteria pervading the West after all the contamination scares in China as well as commodities exported to the US and elsewhere.

                Personally, I am still on the fence about this particular story, but am leaning toward it being authentic. The Chinese government has authoritarian control on just about anything it chooses to clamp down on, especially media within its borders. The recent public trial and execution of the Chinese official as a sacrificial lamb and scapegoat was probably meant as an offering to symbolize rooting out corruption in China, but most doing business there will tell you how institutionalized corruption is there. I couple this fact with China being under the microscope for getting Beijing in order for the 2008 Olympics, which is a year away. What more does China need to scare away potential visitors for the Olympics as well as tourism in general than another food story like this?

                The practices of food sourcing and handling in China has been a point of controversy ever since the country has opened its borders to the West. Although I never have travelled there, my aunt had travelled there three times as a tourist. She loved the quaint innocence of the people on her first visit back in the 80s, noticed the huge changes on her second visit in the 90s, and was taken aback at the commercialization and shear aggressiveness of vendors in 2001, and died in early 2002 of complications due to hepatitis A which she contracted on her last visit. One thing she always found consistant throughout the years was the ignorance or disregard for sanitation. As careful as she tried to be while visiting there, like alot of tourists, something got to her somewhere and her age coupled with this nasty virus got the better of her. Another thing she mentioned was the explosion of food vendors along the streets. She said she was warned by the tour guides to never take food from them, as they could never rely on the foods' quality or handling.

                Seemingly not related but relevant from my perspective is how enterprises in China are willing to do just about anything to make a buck. My friend has a business that sources electronic circuitry from throughout the world to clients of all sizes. His industry has changed over the past year with the mushrooming number of counterfit circuits coming out of China. As the lowest prices can be sourced from China - and his clients know this - the rate of counterfits has skyrocketed to about half of what he now sourcing out of China. He now has to hold funds payable in an escrow account (an added expense for him) before releasing them to the companies in China pending authentication of the circuitry. Furthermore, the authentication process is costly, as he now has to check for counterfits either in-house, or have a third party do this, again, as an added expense. Those found to be counterfit are sent back and the company in violation is blacklisted. The problem is, the blacklisted company closes shop and reopens under another name.

                In essence, the mentality and practices of alot of what is going on in China is almost identical to what occurred here in the US as well as in Europe when industrialization and unrestrained capitalism combined for some awful times for most back in the early 1900s. Labor exploitation, corruption at all levels, disregard for human rights, questionable manufacturing processes and unbridled release of pollutants were the rule back then and are being replayed in China but at a much grander scale and a much more accelerated pace. Every geographic area or industry not yet tapped becomes a "Wild West," and the rules are made up as they go, and those making the rules are those who have the money. Those willing to follow have a nose for the money, no matter what it takes to make it.

                I am hoping that this story pans out to be hoax, but if this reporter lives to tell his side of what happened and can do so outside of China's borders, I'll be very interested to hear his take on it.

                1. The story may be a hoax... or not. The reporter is now in prison in China.

                  http://www.suntimes.com/news/world/47...

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Brian S

                    That's the way of the world from the Chinese government's point-of-view. If they don't like what you are saying or doing, then guess what...?

                    China is currently suffering from a serious downgrading of their pride, or face. If one knows about Asians and "saving face," this is as if not more important than life itself. With China on the world podium for the past few years, they have been getting pummelled lately with amazing amounts of negative reports. This is the equivalent to the Chinese government wearing a dress while standing on that podium and not only is the floor made of glass, but everyone is looking up there to see what's interesting. The government is showing less and less patience with the negativity that they feel they can counter or control. This reporter, along with the execution of the Minister of Food and Drug earlier this month sends a strong message to anyone else who tries to shed a bad light on China.

                    With the '08 Olympics around the corner, they need to put on as good a face as possible, and try to show the rest of the world that China is a first-rate industrialized nation. The real question is can they salvage their current image?

                    1. re: Brian S

                      I'll doubt the government of China, before I'll doubt the reporter.

                      My Guess? It's true.

                      1. re: kkak97

                        I'm of the same opinion... I think the reporter knows/was threatened that his life was in the balance if he didn't cry wolf...