China is popular worldwide for its fine cuisine and many dishes. However, its food industry has been in the news from time to time due to wrong reasons.
Several organizations and companies have issued alerts to the public to avoid foods imported from China. This is mainly because China has gained notoriety for their inventiveness in creating outrageously toxic food products that are very harmful to the health.
The counterfeit food items are enriched with banned chemicals, plastic and unhygienic products. Consumption of these food items can have severe physical and mental consequences, starting from harm to the digestive system to damage of the hormones.
Here are the top 10 toxic food items made in China that are very dangerous for your health.
1. Processed Mushrooms
If you love to eat mushrooms, especially canned mushrooms, then you need to be extra careful.
The news of toxic mushrooms came into the limelight in 2006 when 16 diners were hospitalized after eating a poisonous variety of boletus mushrooms in Beijing. After eating the toxic mushrooms, the diners suffered from nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and dizziness. Since then, several people have suffered from food poisoning due to mushroom consumption.
In the U.S., 34 percent of processed mushrooms are from China. Some of these are toxic mushrooms and are even labeled as organic to increase sales.
In 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) refused 10 shipments of canned mushrooms from China due to pesticide contamination. This resulted in the Chinese government halting exports of canned mushrooms to the U.S.
To be on the safe side, always buy raw, organic, locally grown mushrooms or those from trusted American-based or Canadian-based farms.
2. Soy Sauce
News reports have circulated stating that several Chinese manufacturers exported cheap soy sauces made from human hair to the U.S. and UK markets.
These cheap soy sauces were manufactured using a chemical amino acid extraction process similar to artificially hydrolyzed soy sauces. The amino acid syrup (or powder) was generated from human hair, gathered from salons, barber shops and hospitals from different parts of the country.
In China, the government banned production of soy sauces made from hair.
An investigation found another toxic ingredient present in soy sauce – bacillus cereus. Within 10 to 12 hours of ingesting this toxic element, a person may experience nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and watery diarrhea.
According to tests carried out by the UK’s Food Standards Agency in 2001, the chemicals 3-MCPD and 1,3-DCP were also found in most of the soy sauce products imported from China. Both these harmful chemicals are banned from all food because they are toxic to genes, as well as act a carcinogenic. Intake of these chemicals is linked to higher risk of liver cancer.
Do not go for cheap soy sauce. Invest in a high-quality product. If possible, avoid using soy sauce completely.
3. Turbot Fish
Turbot fish is a common fish farmed in China and exported to the U.S. market. In fact, more than 80 percent of the turbot fish in America comes from China.
This fish is one of the most toxic and unhealthy types of fish that you can eat.
China’s farmers and fish farmers use dangerous levels of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides – including banned chemicals –to increase their productivity. These chemicals can remain on foods long after harvesting and processing. Normal fish-farming technologies are not sufficient to prevent disease in turbot fishes that have weak immune systems.
Plus, most of the fish are farmed in small pools of waste water, which is highly polluted.
In 2006, officials from the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration found carcinogenic nitrofuran metabolites in the fish and Beijing found additional drugs, including malachite green, in its fish.
In fact, a 2009 study conducted by the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture found some alarming facts like the presence of harmful veterinary drug residues in Chinese farm-raised seafood.
Along with turbot, tilapia is another common fish farmed in China that should be avoided.
Garlic is a common ingredient used in various processed foods. The garlic imported from China is loaded with chemicals and is not safe for consumption.
The soil where garlic is produced is often heavily sprayed with illegal pesticides, such as phorate and parathion. Both these pesticides are banned by the Chinese as well as U.S. governments.
Plus, China’s soil is contaminated by heavy metals like cadmium and arsenic that can lead to respiratory diseases.
According to data from the International Trade Centre, a part of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Organization, about 64,876 tons of dried, fresh or chilled garlic were imported from China in 2014 in the U.S. This figure clearly shows that Chinese garlic is hugely available in the U.S. market.
It is easy to identify garlic from China. Chinese garlic will not have roots and stems, and it has smaller bulbs that are lighter in weight. Plus, Chinese garlic does not have a strong flavor.
Many vegetable producers in China spray harvested cabbage with a formaldehyde solution to keep them fresh while in transit. This illegal practice has been common in eastern China for years.
The formaldehyde solution helps keep the cabbage fresh and plump for a longer time without refrigeration, which in turn lowers the cost of production for the farmers. Many farmers cannot afford refrigerated trucks.
However, formaldehyde is a toxic cancer-causing compound often used as a disinfectant. Eating food that has formaldehyde on it can cause skin, breathing and digestive problems.
If you notice a pungent smell on the cabbage you bought from a grocery store, do not eat it. Always opt for organically grown cabbage from your local market to be on the safe side.
6. Wuchang Rice
If you love eating China’s Wuchang rice, which is extremely popular due to its fragrant smell and distinct taste, you may want to think twice. This rice costs almost double the price of normal rice and it is not even healthy.
A fake version of the rice is made with a small amount of real Wuchang rice mixed with artificial potatoes and plastic rice made from industrial synthetic resin. Then it is sprayed with a fragrance to replicate the original rice smell and ultimately packaged and shipped out of the country. When cooked, this fake rice remains hard.
Such rice is high in toxins, such as phthalates and bisphenol A, which have been banned in the U.S. for years. These chemicals have the ability to disrupt the functions of the hormones in the body, particularly estrogen. It has also been linked to effects on reproductive development.
As this rice is mostly exported and consumed outside of China, as a buyer you need to be cautious.
If in doubt whether the Wuchang rice you are eating is real or fake, heat the rice on the stove or grill until it burns. If the rice is real it will char and burn, and if it is fake, the plastic in it will melt and smell really bad.
When in doubt, opt for non-GMO or organic rice grown in North America.
7. Apple Juice
If you are buying prepackaged apple juice that is cheap and doesn’t even taste good, there is a high chance that the product is from China.
Several leading research centers found high arsenic levels in juice. The arsenic levels far exceeded the FDA’s level that would prompt concern.
Arsenic intake can lead to nausea, vomiting, cough, fatigue, fever, headache, rapid heartbeat, abdominal pain and diarrhea. In fact, long-term exposure to arsenic can cause cancer in the skin, lungs, bladder and kidneys.
The FDA, however, states that arsenic is a naturally occurring substance and is found in water, air, food, and soil. It further states that small amounts of this element can be present in certain foods and beverages, including fruit juices but there is no evidence of any public health risk from it.
By 2010, China was the world’s major exporter of apple juice concentrate, with America as its largest customer. In fact, imported apples from China accounted for two-thirds of the U.S. apple juice supply. But since the news of toxic chemicals in apple juice has come to light, the import level has dropped significantly.
Health experts recommend avoiding buying prepackaged juice. Instead, drink natural, homemade juice from apples bought from a local farm.
8. Industrial Salt
China produces about 90 million tons of salt a year. Of that, 91 percent is nonedible industrial salts that contain heavy metals and other dangerous substances.
Though industrial salt is not supposed to reach your dining table, several Chinese manufacturers have been selling their products as table salt for some time.
Such salts contain hazardous metals like lead, arsenic, mercury or nitrites. The gradual buildup of these substances in the body contributes to nerve damage and cancer. Its high intake can also cause physical and mental health problems as well as a negative impact on reproduction and the thyroid.
These industrial salts are not just sold as table salt, but are also used to make pickled vegetables produced in Chengdu, Sichuan. In 2004, it was found that several factories in China had been using industrial-grade salt to make pickled vegetables. The pickled vegetables are even sprayed with pesticides containing high amounts of DDVP (dichlorvos), a hazardous organophosphate before exporting to other countries.
Avoid any kind of salt imported from China as well as products like pickled vegetables that contain a good amount of salt.
9. Green Peas
If you love to buy frozen green peas, make sure they are not from China.
For several years, China has been exporting fake green peas that are made of soy beans, snow peas, green color and sodium metabisulfite. In fact, the sodium metabisulfite is used as dye and is banned in many countries. This dye, used to give the fake green peas that classic green color, is cancerous and prevents the body from absorbing calcium.
When boiled, these peas paint the water unnaturally green and do not become soft. These peas also have a penetrating odor.
Be careful when buying green peas. If possible, prefer local goods, especially those coming from local farmers.
Vegans who rely on tofu to get their daily dose of protein should be extra careful while buying it. Tofu manufactured in China can be highly toxic.
Several tofu manufacturers in Guangdong were found to use a combination of sewage, slop and iron (II) sulfate to prepare chemical-enriched tofu. By doing so, the manufacturers not only accelerated production of tofu but even improved the appearance of their fermented product.
In factories in Wuhan, Hubei Province, workers made tofu by combining soy protein with flour, monosodium glutamate, pigment and ice. The tofu produced here was even sold under the name of other companies.
Some manufacturers even used rongalite, an industrial bleaching agent that’s been linked to cancer.
Instead of buying tofu from the market, try making it at home. It is very easy to make your own tofu using soy milk.