2014 More Questions than Answers

Well 2014 got off to a scary food scandal start this week.  The Chinese government finally announced what they have known for a couple years now, that 17 percent of China’s arable land is contaminated and some of it( 3.3 million hectares)* is so polluted that the government has taken that land out of production. And here I was worried about a silly thing like the air quality in Shanghai.

Unfortunately a considerable amount of the rice grown in China is in an area, Hunan, that is also the center of non ferrous metal production, of  which some nasty heavy metals are by products.  But don’t feel too good about Hunan being singled out. Wang Shiyuan, China’s vice minister of land and resources, was reported to say in the Shanghai Daily (12/31/2013) that “most of the polluted farmland was in eastern and central parts of China”. Yes, Shanghai is in eastern China.

To be fair, China is not the only country facing soil pollution and degradation ( a whole other story). Peru, India, Indonesia, to name a few and even in the US there are areas that are listed as too polluted to use. To me the difference, at least in the US, is that we have an Environmental Protection Agency that has been working on these problems since the 1970’s and the public has more or less been aware all along the way.  Some people even complain that environmental protection has hindered economic growth in the United States. To these people I say spend a month in China and then we will talk.

So is there any good news? It is good news that the Chinese government has decided to finally make the public aware of these problems.  They have already started pilot land clean -up projects in Guangxi province and  the government has pledged billions and billions of yuan to fix the problems (I suppose the leaders have to eat too). The problem though won’t be fixed by dinner tomorrow night so there is still the issue of finding safe, clean food.

There are steps you can take to help ensure that the food you eat and serve your family is clean. Most of these recommendations are what Eat Well Shanghai has been promoting for years now.

1. Know where your food comes from.  This is more important now then ever. Visit the farms near Shanghai and look around. Are there industrial factories within sight? Ask questions. For example, where does the farm source its water?

2. Ask your grocer the same questions. Most of the online stores that expats use are happy to answer your questions. I also know that Metro stores invite your questions too.

3. Shop around. Variety reduces your exposure.

4. If you can afford to, buy meat produced without hormones or antibiotics. Otherwise reduce your meat consumption.

5. Eat imported fish/seafood

6. Drink organic milk.

7. Wash your hands!

Knowledge has always been a source of power and control. Find out what you can about your food and then relax and enjoy.

Despite starting 2014 with another food scare , Eat Well Shanghai is looking forward to a healthy and delicious new year!

Eat Well, Live Well, Have Fun!

* Shanghai Daily, December 31,2013 and International New York Times, December 31- January 1, 2013.

Eat Well Shanghai holds office hours by appointment twice a month at:

The Orange Room Center for Wellness

St.Laurent Building, #201,7B

3215 Hong Mei Lu ph. 6406 3642