What is Safe to Eat (and drink)?

When I'm traveling, I love to check out the local food markets to see what is on offer. When in the US, I do my food shopping at local farmer's markets supplemented by Whole Foods and ethnic grocery stores. Currently, Organic China Expo 2008 is taking place in Beijing as a way to inform and promote about organic eating.

When in China, grocery shopping is never easy. Sure, things are far cheaper than abroad and the abundance is huge, but where do you go? Big box shops like Carrefour have amazing selection, but I'd prefer buying locally when I can. Popular foreign grocery stores like Ole are incredibly expensive and often aren't very different from what you'd get anywhere else. In Beijing, Lohao City offers organic produce and other products, but at my local shop the selection is limited, prices are very high, and the vegetables rarely seem fresh. The other option is to buy local from a "cai shichang", where the vegetables and fruit are typically from the suburbs or nearby provinces like Hebei, though where they actually come from and the state of the farmer's land is unknown to the buyer.

While I believe in buying organic, in China the choices for those who do want to buy organic are few and far between and when you find them, they aren't always that attractive (nor, in a lot of cases, local). At the same time, with all the stories about food safety and pollution, I can't deny that in the back of my mind, there are always thoughts about the quality of the food I'm eating.

Of course, buying locally is also important, but unless you buy in the suburbs and bring it into the city, you don't really know the farming techniques the farmer employees (and a lot of times, the farmer's themselves are unaware of all the chemicals they use or problems with polluted water, etc).

And with this item about used tea leaves being dried and repacked, is there anything that is still sacred? Is there anything safe? Do you take the attitude, like most, of just eating whatever you want and hoping its safe? Does anyone think the FDA's presence in China will help improve the quality of what's for sale on the domestic market? Or do you, like some cynics, believe, FDA-rejected items will simply be dumped on the Chinese market? If you are a conscious, green consumer (or have pretentions of being one), how do you deal with the question of grocery shopping in China?

No comments: