With all the contaminated foods and drinks now reported in China the state of eating or drinking these days seems like dodging mines in a minefield, anything these days seemingly can be a hazard. Every time I get sick I have to wonder was it the contaminated milk, the Sichuan peppers or just an un-hygienic meal from a restaurant that caused the 3-5 days of agony. China just seems to be full of possible food poisoning hazards!
Recently a whole string of food contamination issues have been popping up in the news from the glowing pork discovered in Shanghai to the contaminated yogurt, toxic baby formula and most recently the exploding watermelons blowing up left right and center due to some toxic chemicals used to promote rapid growth. Now thanks to the Chinese government loosening its grip hold on the reporting of food contamination issues it seems like every second week another food contamination scandal is blowing up in the news and it certainly has got me worried.
Now I’m by no means an expert on the food contamination issues in China but I’ve watched enough news reports, read enough articles and been sick with suspected food poisoning enough in my time in China to be pretty concerned about the food I’m consuming. In fact it is sitting in a haze of low blood sugar levels and excruciating cramps caused by suspected food poisoning that triggered me to write this article.
Recently I was sitting at the Shanghai Entry and Exit Bureau waiting a painful 2 1/2 hours to submit my application for a visa extension. Needless to say in all that time I got pretty hungry so what did I do I went to the nearest convenience store that just so happened to be Family Mart and bought a prepackaged burrito. When I got back the the visa office and opened the package I discovered something horrifying, flies, small flies and a lot of them who had apparently set up house inside the packaging. Goodbye lunch, goodbye appetite. How could this happen! Surely it was all hygienically packaged, surely it had been refrigerated, so how did those flies end up in the packaging? The only way I could figure they got in there was during the packaging process. This had me now asking myself how many other foods in that factory were contaminated with flies and who knows what other nasty bugs!
This incident however was minor compared to my not so pleasant memories of a bout of food poisoning I came down with just a month after arriving in Shanghai in 2010. Somehow I managed to survive getting food poisoning in China the 7 months prior to moving to Shanghai surprisingly considering those months were spent in a small rural city called Keqiao in Zhejiang province and many other rural towns in southern China. Surely if there was anywhere I would have gotten sick it would have be there. But no, just a mere month into my new life in Shanghai both me and my roomate got struck down with food poisoning off some pre-cooked chicken bought from the Carrefour supermarket at Zhongshan Park. It was unbelievable, how could this massive French supermarket chain well known for it’s excellent products cause the both of us to get sick. It never even entered our minds that buying that pre-cooked salty chicken would go from being a quick delicious meal to something the both of us would regret eating. It had me wondering if a massive chain like Carrefour couldn’t keep control over its food safety standards how was their any hope for the little guy who didn’t have the money to ensure standards were kept up to scratch.
So here I am again, somehow with yet another case of food poisoning, the second case in 8 months and I’m sure it won’t be my last bout during my time in China. And lets just say I really don’t want to have to go through this again anytime soon! I’m determined to minimise the risk of contracting food poisoning again by being wary and making smart choices with my food. And despite the lack of any real regulations that are actually strictly implemented to ensure food safety (in fact enough money will buy you an excellent food safety rating for your restaurant) there are still some things you can do to minimise your risk of contracting the most unpleasant experience.
Tips for Avoiding Food Poisoning
- Always ensure meat is thoroughly cooked before eating. If you do buy precooked meat re-heat it before eating.
- Eat organic fruit and vegetables to ensure no dangerous pesticides or growth educing chemicals haven’t been used.
- Avoid street food that has been prepared or cooked in a unhygienic environment.
- Avoid eating meat off the street particularly in summer unless it has been kept refrigerated at least with ice.
- Those small restaurants that have no one in them at what should be a busy time is probably empty for a reason, if no ones eating there you shouldn’t either.
- Use disposable chopsticks where you can, they’re often more hygienic then the ones that are washed and reused.
- Use a sanatiser wipe of boiled water to sanatise cutlery at restaurants, particularly at smaller establishments where dishes aren’t cleaned to hygienic standards.
- Do not eat at restaurants or streets stalls that are dirty or have animals freely wandering around such as cats and dogs.
- Never drink the tap water unless it has been boiled!
Have you been struck down with food poising in China or while travelling? Do you have any food safety nightmare stories? Share them in the comments below.
Category: Health & Safety