I wanted to touch upon this topic, as it's something I feel is very important personally. I would suspect there are quite a few others in China who also may be wary about food safety. Not to say that only Chinese food has safety issues, as there are far more GMOs in North America, for example. However, there are numerous food additives in China that one should steer clear of, and I would like to clarify some of the important ones. I will also give the 汉字 for each one, so that you may identify it under the nutritional information on a food's label. If you are not concerned, I will also lay out some of the health effects for you, so that you may understand why the particular ingredient is of concern.
(remember that not all labels are accurate, so buying packaged food always presents some risk)
Ingredients are usually labelled as 配料 pèi liào.
Chemicals to Avoid:
1. MSG: 味精 wèi jīng
A neurostimulating amino acid. Contributes to NUMEROUS diseases, migraines, autism, insomnia, ADHD, etc.
2. Aspartame: 阿斯巴甜 ā sī bā tián
Another neurostimulating amino acid. Aspartic acid has been shown to contribute to many diseases. Very similar side effects to MSG.
3. Tartrazine/Yellow #5: 柠檬黄 níng méng huáng / 酒石黄 jiǔ shí huáng
May cause anxiety, migraines, ADHD. Even shown to possibly aggravate carpal tunnel (something I suffer from quite frequently!). (1)
4. E124, Acid Red 18/Ponceau 4R (oftentimes not labelled): ?? (Chinese unknown) May be listed in English.
This particular chemical was found in several shipments of haw flakes to the US. (2)
"Since it is an azo dye, it may elicit intolerance in people intolerant
to salicylates. Additionally, it is a histamine liberator, and may
intensify symptoms of asthma. In combination with benzoates, it is also
implicated in hyperactivity in children. "(3)
In addition to these listen chemicals, there are also several food safety scandals that one should be aware of. One of recent occurrence, involved the milk company Yili. High levels of mercury were found in their milk powder. (4) The melamine scandal of 2008 also comes to mind as likely the largest food scandal in China thus far. As a result of these sorts of findings, one should always be careful when purchasing food in China, and should ensure that they read the labels and EDUCATE themselves before putting their trust in a company.