so a few days ago I was thinking about the apparent lack of health or safety standards in china. Then I opened the bottle of juice I’d just bought, and saw black stuff near the rim. gross. upon closer inspection, there were smaller black spots all around – must have been mould. this bottle had two dates stamped on it – january 2008 and april 2007, iirc. creation and expiry dates. it concerns me a little that the stuff lasts that long – and concerns me much more that some similar juice in the store seems to have expired a while ago, and is still being sold, with various discounts and bargains (a couple of days ago it dropped to “buy one get one free”). the dates for that juice are printed on the side of the lid, which is uneven, so they’re quite hard to read. I can’t help wondering if any poor student has gotten sick from it yet.
I’ve seen other things that creep me out, too. of course, I guess I can’t expect leafy green veggies to have *all* the bugs washed off, and a piece of bone or gravel showing up in my tofu dish won’t kill me, but mysterious chemical-y tastes that cause stomach problems for a day aren’t much fun. dealing with the foreign bacteria and 90% of dishes being full of oil is hard enough on our stomachs already.
I’ve found some pretty nasty stuff in canada (like slivers of metal in a pack of bacon) but it seems to be far more rare. canada’s food standards seem to be high enough that I can just not think about it, avoid processed foods and assume I’ll be ok.
over here, I don’t have any idea what sort of standards are enforced, but I doubt they’re much good. the air and water quality makes it quite apparent that the government doesn’t even pretend to care for the health of its people. oh yeah, and there was that toothpaste issue too.
I feel like I’m being slowly poisoned here by everything I eat, drink and breathe… what makes it even worse is the lack of choice. I don’t really see anything resembling “health foods” around here. trying to read ingredients is tiring and frustrating, and I’m not even sure how far I should trust the labels. soft drinks and candy bars aren’t very popular here, which is nice, but the yummy fruit drinks are very syrupy, and the dried fruit is incredibly sugary too. sometimes I buy vitamin water just so I can get a flavoured drink that’s not overpoweringly sweet. supposedly my friend found a loaf of brown bread once, but when I went to haoyouduo they just had the usual white stuff – all bread products are sickly sweet too. we haven’t even found any real peanut butter (ie, peanuts and maybe salt, nothing else) – I’m thinking of trying to just make some, since peanuts themselves are quite popular.
as for breakfast, it’s basically fried oily things or rice soup. and if you don’t get up early enough in the morning, the cafeteria’s closed and there’s just jidan bing from across the street (or some other type of bing that’s less greasy, but I don’t know what it’s called).
I’ve been thinking of buying a bag of oatmeal and some packages of milk for breakfast, but seeing milk in unrefrigerated plastic bags still creeps me out too much. plus, the milk tastes different here, and I don’t like it much. having been reminded of the nasty stuff that gets into american milk put me off dairy products for a little while, too.
one nice thing is the fruit stands everywhere. watermelon, bananas, and other fruit are easy to get, although you don’t always get to choose them yourself (one time I just threw out the banana I’d bought because it didn’t look worth eating). all the grapes have seeds, and are much more tasty than what I’m used to. they still have that certain something that I became mildly allergic to a few years ago, though. must be either pollen or pesticides – washing seems to help sometimes.
of course, we’ve been warned against that too, with stories of people injecting water into watermelons to make them heavier (water that’s not safe for us to drink). raw vegetables are very rare – salads are only served in fancy foreigner restaurants like pizza hut, and I wouldn’t trust them anyways. for now I’m trying to eat fruits that can be peeled, which usually means bananas, but the ones I like best have always been ones that can’t be peeled. I think my body is definitely upset about this – last week I had an irresistible urge to eat some cooked tomatoes, despite the fact that I’ve always hated cooked tomatoes. I guess I needed whatever nutrients they had so badly that they actually tasted good.
mostly I try not to think about where food comes from, since I tend to get overly paranoid and not want to eat anything for a while, but here I feel like I need to pay some attention, and at least try to avoid the most troublesome things… assuming I’ve even got reliable knowledge on that. food is the main reason I’m feeling homesick – I miss the variety, the freshness, the lack of worries…
oh well. maybe I’m better off not knowing, seeing as I also don’t know how to do anything about it. the air’s probably more likely to shorten my life anyways.