The 2013-2014 beijingkids Health Guide is the latest resource for Beijing families dedicated to providing information on family health care, maternity, eating and breathing safety, mental health, emergency care and traditional Chinese Medicine. Articles from the guide will be featured twice a week on our website. Find the full version here.
Food labels were created to make our lives easier, but let’s be honest: does looking at the labels in your local supermarket send you into sticker shock? Don’t worry, you’re not alone, which is why we’ve put together this handy list of labels, common ingredients you should (and can easily) avoid, and gotten some top shopping recommendations from Beijing organic chef Laura Fanelli (see Health Guide p62).
It’s no secret that food safety is a big concern in China, and there are endless articles about the latest scandal – so much so that it might all seem rather hopeless. But the scandals in recent years have actually driven the labeling of safe foods, says social media activist Kong Batian, who regularly returns to her hometown of Kunming to take on polluters and drive them out of town. “Grocery stores never thought it was important to label products, and it’s usually after a scandal that products get a seal of approval. Non-GMO oil is generally labeled because there was a stink about GMO corn, whereas the actual corn may not be labeled. We’ll get there – although it will be slowly and one scandal at a time.”
Here in Beijing organic and natural foods are readily available, and major grocery chains like Carrefour and Metro are steadily improving their supply chains to ensure food safety. The internet has also made it more convenient than ever to order safe, natural and organic supplies online. But for the things you’re going to buy locally, keep this list in mind. Cutting out a handful of food additives will improve the health of your family so that the impact of other foods isn’t quite as large.
Nitrates and Nitrites 硝酸盐
What it is: Synthetically produced food preservatives and fertilizer.
Can Cause: Aggravation for asthmatics, cancer, heart problems, and dead in people with Alzheimer’s and Type 2 Diabetes.
Where you’ll find it: Preserved meats, dried nuts and fruits.
What it is: An additive used to prevent mold, but is also commonly found in cosmetics.
Can cause: Hormonal disruptions inferring with testosterone. Can also build up in breast tissue and studies have shown it found in breast cancer tissue.
Commonly found in: Ice creams, sweets, and instant noodles.
Sodium Benzoate 苯甲酸钠
What it is: A common food preservative found in acidic foods.
Can cause: allergic reactions and cancer.
Commonly found in: Sodas, juices, sauces, and pickled veggies
What it is: The salt of the amino acid glutamic acid, used to enhance the savory quality of foods.
Can cause: Nausea, headaches, chest pains, and weakness.
Commonly found in: Dried nuts, Chinese sauces, and most restaurant foods.
Caramel Coloring 焦糖色
What it is: An artificial pigment created by heating sugars, often with ammonia, at which point it becomes a carcinogen.
Can cause: Cancer.
Commonly found in: Sodas, soy sauce, baked goods.
What it is: Food preservative that maintains color and prevents bacteria by releasing sulfur dioxide.
Can cause: Serious breathing problems and asthma attacks if overused.
Commonly found in: wine, mixed fruits, and fruit bars, but be mostly concerned bout corner shops who preserve their own fruits and may not pay attention to the guidelines.
What it is: An artificial sweetener.
Can cause: Bladder cancer and weight gain.
Commonly found in: Sweet ‘N Low and ‘sugar-free’ and reduced drinks and sweets.
Aspartame 天门冬氨醯苯丙氨酸甲酯, 阿斯巴特
What it is: Artificial sweetener.
Can cause: Neurological symptoms such as headaches dizziness, memory loss, and, in rare cases, epileptic seizures. Some studies have linked it co cancers such as lymphomas, leukemia and more.
Commonly found in: Nutra-Sweet, Equal, Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi.
Potassium Bromate 溴酸钾
What it is: A common baking additive that requires a cancer warning in California, and is banned in many places around the world.
Can cause: Thyroid and kidney tumors.
Commonly found in: In fluffy bakery items and breads.
Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) 丁基化羟基茴香醚Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) 丁基化羟基甲苯
What it is: A petroleum-derived preservative.
Can cause: Cancer, or at least the reasonable anticipation thereof, according the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Commonly found in: Preserved oils, lard and margarine, cereal, Orbit chewing gum.
What it is: A synthetic yellow-orange dough conditioner.
Can cause: Asthma attacks in sensitive populations.
Commonly found in: Bagels, hamburger buns and other baked goods.
Carrageenan 卡拉胶, 角叉藻聚糖
What it is: An emulsifier made from seaweed biproduct.
Can Cause: Cancer, colon trouble, and ulcers.
Commonly found in: Low-fat dairy products, especially diet ice creams.
Organic Food Labels
It’s easy to stick the word “Organic” on a food label, but it’s hard to keep all the different labels straight. Either way, buying organic is always a safer bet than buying convention here in China, so clip this list and ask your ayi to shop for them. You can read about the history of these labels here.
Fangyuan Organic Food Certification Center (FOFCC) 辽宁方园有机食品认证有限公司
Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People’s Republic of China (CNCA) 中国有机产品
*Visit their website Food.cnca.cn to verify your organic products.
China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment (CNAS) 中国合格评定国家认可委员会
*This logo is strictly controlled, and while the size of the logo can be changed according to the needs of users, the shape and color cannot be changed.
China Organic Food Certification Center (COFCC) 中绿华夏有机食品认证中心
Beijing Wuyue Huaxia Management and Technology Center (CHC) 北京五岳华夏管理技术 中心(中国有机产品认证机构)
Conversion Organic 中国有机转换产品
*used in the three years it takes to convert to organic.
Want to play it safe? Organic advocate Laura Fanelli (see p62) shares her list of top shops for organic and natural products. See p53 for more information.
TooToo Organic Shop 拖拖公社
Online marketplace for natural and organic local products, as well as organic imported goods. www.tootoo.cn
iHerb (online only)
(They ship to China and seem to have every grocery item you could imagine!)
www.iherb.com (Website in English, Chinese, and many other languages)
Lohao City 乐活城 (Many locations)
(Only major organic shop with a storefront for the moment, some non-organic products too.) 1-19# Lucky Street (Haoyun Jie), 1 Chaoyang Gongyuan Lu, Chaoyang District. (Multiple locations throughout the city) 朝阳公园路1号好运街1-19号
Tel: 8459 2900, 5867 0265 806, www.lohaocity.com/eshow.asp (English page)
Green Dot Dot 点点绿
(Hong Kong Brand, dry goods available in the basement of many shopping malls)
B/12. Oriental Kenzo Department Store, 48 Dongzhimenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District. 东直门外大街48号银座百货B-12号(东直门桥东南侧)
Tel: 8454 9297, 8454 9289, www.greendotdot.com.cn
World Health Store 维衡生 (Downtown Location)
(Supplements and vitamins as well as some imported food and personal care items)
R 2152, North Tower, SOHO Shangdu, 8 Dongdaqiao Lu, Chaoyang District.北京市朝阳区东大桥路8号SOHO尚都, 北塔首层2152
Tel: 5900 2209, www.worldhealthstore.com.cn
Beyond Organic 博扬网 (online only)
(large selection of imported and domestic dry goods, personal care products, etc.)
Tel: 400 766 7718, www.ofood.cn (website in Chinese only)
Heng Rong Organic 衡荣生态农场 (online only)
(Domestic grains, flour, vinegar, etc)
Tel: 400 010 0070, www.hengrong.com.cn (website in Chinese only)
God’s Grace Garden 天福园
Jiangcun village, Liangxiang,Fangshan district, Beijing 北京市房山区良乡江村
Xinzhuang, Xingshou Town, Changping District, Beijing 昌平区兴寿镇辛庄草莓园
Tel: 8459 0809, email@example.com
Run Tian 润田
Tel: 5715 5168, www.runtianfarm.com
Natural (but not local)
Tony’s Farm (farms in Shanghai and Beijing)
Tel: 8587 9398, shop.tonysfarm.com/index.htm?
Hao Bao Qing (produce from Yunnan)
Tel: 5698 0333, 400 890 9666, www.haobaoqing.com
Coffee and Tea
Shangrila Farms (coffee, honey and soap):
Tel: 8451 0613, www.shangrilafarms.com/en/
Rickshaw Roasters Coffee
Tel: 8532 1863, www.rickshawroasters.com
Tranquil Tuesdays Tea
71 Fangjia Hutong, Dongcheng District
Tel: 6407 1938, www.tranquiltuesdays.com
Hu Shi Ka Den (Organic Japanese and Chinese Tea)
36 Liangmaqiao Lu, Liangmamingju Building C, 10D 风姿花传文化交流中心, 朝阳区亮马桥路36号, 亮马名居C座10D
Tel: 6468 3910 (Chinese Only)
Beijing Organic Consumers Association (B.O.C.A.)
This Yahoo group is comprised of Beijing residents interested in organic foods, responsible consumption and healthy living. Subscribe by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, health.groups.yahoo.com/group/beijing_organic_consumers/
This article originally appeared on page 56-57 of the beijingkids Health Guide.
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