Food safety has been an increasing concern in China, especially after the huge melamine crisis a few years back. If you never heard about it, that’s good- you’ll be less terrified when you visit China. Still, there are some things to keep in mind while traveling in China concerning food safety and your health.
1. Wash all fruit and vegetables. Fertilizers are a relatively new introduction to China, well- chemical fertilizers anyways. And not all farmers are mixing ideal ratios, and some still mix in natural manure with the chemical blend. What it means to you is that your food is more likely to be over-fertilized and runoff from this into the water supply near the farms means that when they wash the veggies and fruit they are soaking them in more chemicals. Wash everything you eat raw, and boil veggies before eating them if you’re cooking with fresh ingredients. If you buy fruit on the street buy a water bottle and wipe it down and spray it down with filtered water before you munch down.
2. Dairy is safe. The melamine crisis targeted some of China’s biggest yoghurt, milk, milk powder and sundry other dairy products. As a result of the horrible tainted milk crisis, authorities are watching dairy items on the shelves for signs of any resurgence (which is unlikely). So, diary is safe, it’s the safest it’s ever been now. Chow down on as much yoghurt as you can consume, and as an added benefit yoghurt has probiotics which will help your stomach adjust to the new foods while traveling in China.
3. Meat can be scary. For the most part, the way meat is cooked in Chinese food ensures it will be mostly safe. Still, it’s best to avoid the meat on the street that looks like it’s been sitting in the hot sun all day. The chuan’r (meat cooked over charcoal flame) is safe, but the meat cooked in boiling oil tends to be older, less fresh, and the oil is often reused for days on end, tossing in a nasty dose of carcinogens. If you are a queasy eater, street food probably isn’t for you anyway, but for the adventurous please stick to foods made on-the-spot, especially since so many Chinese pre-made street dishes use egg, pork and chicken– all of which rot quickly and attract flies.