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Chinese ingredients

  • f

I love down-home, preferably H-K style, Chinese food.

I also love staying healthy and am not--unlike the rest of you--as young as I used to be!

So, human rights considerations aside for the moment, I'm really uneasy about eating in Chinese restaurants these days, given the numerous food-related scandals that have occurred recently and the likelihood that a great many ingredients, both obvious and not so, are undoubtedly imported.

I don't know if this is the right place to post this or if it will run into the powers that be at C-hounds' objections to anything that speaks to the health/nutrition/safety aspects of dining.

Interested in any thoughts, suggestions.

If you think I'm hyper-concerned, please don't be rude about it.

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  1. OK to be concerned given the new reports, but really, these days it seems like a crapshoot no matter what prepared food you buy, from anywhere. Including the USA. The China milk crisis notwithstanding, it does seem that the media enjoys scaremongering to some degree.

    1. You're going to die eventually.

      And when you do, might as well go down having lived life to its fullest.

      Life's short. Eat what you like.


      1. The HK government does a good job in informing the populace about food safety:


        The monthly Food Safety Focus letter is particularly useful.

        1. With the exception of maybe certain condiments, I can't think of many foods in Chinese restaurants around here that come exclusively from where quality and safety might be of concern.

          Vegetables, meats and seafood are all sourced from domestic producers or distributors, even popular condiment brands are produced in the U.S. as well.

          I still think the scare over Chinese products exclusively stinks of a bit of xenophobia. Like The Professor said, food safety these days is not just a Chinese issue.

          3 Replies
          1. re: fuuchan

            I was "guilty" of not mentioning my locale--San Francisco; where do you refer to when you say "around here," fuuchan?

            I know some of the places we used to visit often used various imported seafood products, who knows what dehydrated or preserved ones, and, of course, almost exclusively condiments from the PRC.

            As I mentioned, I love and have eaten countless times at purveyors of H-K style Chinese food. Of course contamination occurs everywhere, but there's a difference between food poisoning outbreaks that are usually caught pretty fast and publicized, be it canaloupe, cheeses, strawberries, or other--almost always in a specific crop or other foodstuff--and the pervasiveness of such slower-to-detect additives as melamine or dangerous additives to feeds. Also, the former are often more accidental than purposeful.

            It's a lot easier to fire an employee or correct a sanitation problem than it is to stop the apparent wide-spread pratcice of "beefing" up protein content by desperately poor folks.

            I'm bemoaning the loss of my favorite dining-out experiences and looking for some reassurance that I may hope to return someday to eating Chinese food without having my heart in my mouth. Hardly xenophobic. Just mournful.

            1. re: Fine

              It's not only Chinese restaurants that are affected by this. A lot of animal feed comes from China, so unless you are eating exclusively organic food you may well be exposed anyway.

              Good overview here:

              1. re: mogo

                Thanks so much.

                We do eat 99% organic at home and the rare occasions I eat flesh, it's organice and/or grass fed.

                We also garden organically.

                If I weren't so crazy about Chinese food, I'd be more sanguine about my personal risks. Fortunately, more and more restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I happen to live, use local and organic produce and offer some organic flesh. But not the down-home (or, to the best of my knowledge any) Chinese ones. Sigh.

                The "you have to die of something" line offered by another poster always seems to come from someone for whom death seems a distant event; my reply is always, "I don't want my last thought to be 'I did this to myself'!"

          2. I live in China and like locals deal with the food safety concerns constantly. The best defense is common sense, and I always get food that is fresh and unprocessed as possible and take care when washing and preparing it. When I eat in restaurants I look for signs that they do the same.

            Things like sauces and condiments I have to trust the system to protect, and I know it is taking a chance since we've just seen from the milk scandal that that the system can easily fall down, however there is labelling for organic and for standard quality processing that consumers know to watch for. At almost the same time that the milk scandal was breaking the listeriosis outbreak in Canada happened, so there is no perfect protection from food-related health problems.

            1. Do not worry about bad products while eating Chinese. Anytime there is something to worry about you fellow hounds who read or listen to the Chinese newspapers and TV will inform you about problems. In the past two years I can only remember three things which had problems. Milk, soy sauce and mung bean threads.

              But most Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area use local soy sauce (cheaper and fresher), have not seen any milk products from China and mung bean threads are not normally use either.

              Most of the dried and preserved products have not had problems in the past. So just enjoy what you like and be happy.

              I promise if there is a new scare my cousin who reads and thinks about food scares will call me to stop me from buying these product and I will post it on Chowhound.

              I think we have a few food scares about American products this past two years too.

              I agree with The Professor bad news sells papers.

              1. I don't think there is too much to be worried about. I think the problems with melamine and other additives are no more likely in a Chinese restaurant than in any other restaurant. Most of the threat is going to come from food grown here- be it from the feed or the fertilizer. Melamine is in a lot of items, even within the US. Obviously it's gained more attention in China than here, but it's not like the US is totally safe.

                1 Reply
                1. re: queencru

                  melamine is not added to food products in the u.s. we had lots of conversation on the recent "melamine thread." and the concerns certainly were not made from whole cloth based on xenophobia.

                  on the whole, i'm happy to eat at hong kong palace once or twice a month. most of the food is from local or nearby sources, and not china. chinese sauces and condiments? i'm not worried, because i have a TON in my household, and i'm still kickin'. it is also noteworthy that little amounts are used in comparison with the volume of the food to which the condiments are added.

                2. I come from an Asian family who tries to eat healthy (oil/ salt) so actually we don't go out much anymore to Chinese restaurants. When choosing ready-to-eat foods, produce, meats, or condiments from the market, we read the label and generally pick things produced in the United States, Canada, Taiwan, Singapore, or Hong Kong. These areas tend to have tighter food regulations due to more demanding citizens. If you live anywhere with a big Asian population or Google around, you will find lots of choice in terms of origins of products in the market.

                  Hong Kong, although a part of China, contains some of the world's pickiest and most demanding eaters. Any concerns about food are quickly outed by the press and usually acted upon fairly quickly. Some particular HK brands are decades ( or centuries) old and have a reputation for quality. My relatives read Chinese papers and watch HK-based TV and the generally rare food concerns are taken seriously.

                  In terms of Chinese restaurants in the U.S. and Canada, I wouldn't have too much of a concern. Most places, in my experience, get their meats and produce domestically (cheaper and fresher) and whatever condiments exported from abroad aren't going to be huge portions for the average consumer of Chinese food. A lot of well-known condiment/ seasonings now may be made in the U.S. given the large populations of Chinese-Americans in the U.S.

                  And avoiding/ boycotting Chinese restaurants for human rights reasons wouldn't be punishing the Chinese gov't but Chinese immigrants (some of whom were accepted by the U.S. because they were dissidents) and Chinese-American citizens, some of whom are 3rd,4th,etc. generation Americans.

                  1 Reply
                  1. Oh, forgot to mention, I am familiar with the Bay Area - having lived there for several years.

                    Bay Area has huge Chinese- foodie population. And I would bet, lots of Asian folks who eat Chinese food more than you - whether in cooking or in restaurants daily.

                    If anything happened, you can bet that it would be immediately picked up by the Chinese population there.