A few days ago, I saw something on the internet about fake rice being made in China. Thanks to years of Chinese takeout, when I think of China I think of a nice, clean bowl of steamed rice. Sadly, this rice is not rice at all, but bits of plastic!
It should go without saying that eating plastic is bad for your health. The Bisphenol A (BPA) in plastic causes a spike in estrogen levels, and eating plastic rice is basically a one-way to ticket to getting breast cancer. Sadly, this isn't the only example of shady edibles originating from China. The Chinese are taking the same methods they used to manufacture technology and consumer products quickly for as little cost as possible and applying it to food. This isn't just ethically unsound, it's just plain terrible for anyone unlucky enough to consume these products.
1. Imitation Eggs
There are some Chinese websites that actually provide instructions on how to make up to $70/day making and selling fake eggs. These are made using gelatin, alginic acid, calcium chloride, and potassium alum. Many of these ingredients can be harmful, and the consumption of these eggs can lead to memory loss and dementia.
Ginseng is a popular medicinal plant used throughout China for thousands of years. In recent decades, it's become quite popular globally as well, particularly with the all-natural/fitness crowd. This has led to sharp increases in price, creating a lucrative opportunity for some sellers to cheat customers.
A common practice is boiling the root in sugar to make it heavier. While natural ginseng has about 20% sugar content, these doctored ginsengs can have up to 70% more sugar. Furthermore, boiling ginseng in this way also greatly diminishes the medicinal properties that it's so prized for.
3. Black Pepper (Actually Mud)
Chinese food safety and regulatory standards are... lax, to put it mildly. One unscrupulous vendor actually managed to pass off mud as black pepper and flour as white pepper! Not that the FDA couldn't use improvement either, but still.
4. Plastic Rice
Fake, plastic rice is usually made of potatoes and a synthetic resin. This rice doesn't soften after boiling, and ingesting it can lead to cancer in the long term.
5. Green Peas
In 2005, fake green peas were found in China, consisting of a mixture of snow peas, soybeans, a green dye that is a known carcinogen, and sodium metabisulfite (a chemical that's often used as bleach). These "peas" did not soften when boiled and turned the water a sickly green color.
6. Industrial Salt
Industrial salt is salt that is considered unfit for human consumption, but can be used for other purposes like increasing mud/soil density to make oil drilling rigs more efficient. Sadly, shady merchants sometimes attempt to sell industrial salt as table salt. Consumption of industrial salt can lead to thyroid issues, reproductive problems, and more.
7. Fake Sweet Potato Noodles
Chinese authorities recently recovered nearly five-and-a-half tons of fake sweet potato noodles. They were tipped off when multiple consumers reported a strange taste. The noodles were found to have been made with industrial ink and paraffin wax!
8. Beef (Actually Pork)
Pork is a lot cheaper than beef in China, so it's been modified to pass as beef in restaurants. It is chemically processed and has beef extract added to alter the flavor. Long-term consumption can lead to deformity, poisoning, or even cancer.
9. Baby Formula
Is nothing sacred? A CBS News report found that nearly 50 people accused of manufacturing fake baby formula, which resulted in multiple infant deaths in China in 2004. The formula, which was mostly chalk, caused children to suffer from "big head disease," which is marked by the development of large, malformed heads and a slow deterioration of the rest of the body.
10. Cement Walnuts
Back in 2012, a man in Zhengzhou City, China, purchased walnuts in the shell and found broken pieces of concrete wrapped inside. These pieces of cement were wrapped in paper to prevent suspicious noise when the nut was shaken. These nuts are, naturally, a lot heavier too, so you pay more for them by weight, only to end up with nothing.
Now that you know about these foods, the best way to avoid them would be to be an informed shopper. Talk to your grocer, find out about local farmers in your area, and just generally ask lots of questions. Whenever possible, try buying locally and organically - your body will thank you.
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H/T: Healthy Food House