Chinese Restaurant Syndrome

on Sunday, April 10, 2011

I was researching borax today, and discovered that it is commonly used in Asian food preparation, but banned as a food additive by the FDA. It is not acutely toxic but ingestion causes most of the same symptoms associated with MSG --

Nausea, persistent vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, headaches and lethargy. In severe poisonings, symptoms include a red skin rash, exfoliative rash, unconsciousness, respiratory depression, and renal failure.

Apparently there is very low or no regulation regarding food preparation in Asia. Chemicals banned by the FDA for human consumption are still commonly used in Asia, including Borax, Formaldehyde, rhodamine, methanil, and melamine.

The 2008 Chinese milk scandal involved melamine tainted milk sickened 300,000 people and hospitalized 860 babies.

The 2007 Vietnam food scare involved formaldehyde in tofu, noodles, salted fish, banned pesticides in veggies and toxic soy sauce. Soy sauce is manufactured by hydrolyzing soy protein, and the cheaper methods involve a carcinogenic by product (3-MCPD). Vietnamese soy sauce contained 18,000 times the legal limit in 2007.

The 2005 Indonesia food scare involved 60% of noodle shops serving formaldehyde preserved noodles. Sodium benzoate, cyclamate (banned in US), and borax are exceeding legal levels.

All of this leads me to wonder why so many think that MSG is to blame. It seems more likely that some imported foods contain dangerous levels of known poisons, carcinogens, preservatives, adulterants, and illegal dyes -- and that these poisons are responsible for the problems related to Chinese restaurant syndrome.

"Some countries, such as Thailand, are trying to improve domestic food safety. In bustling Bangkok, where pots bubble and woks sizzle at makeshift kitchens pitched on sidewalks, markets are issued test kits that can detect up to 22 contaminants.

China has faced outrage among its own citizens in recent years. Whiskey laced with methanol, a toxic wood alcohol, was blamed for killing at least 11 people in southern Guangzhou. Local media in Shanghai uncovered the sale of phony tofu made from gypsum, paint and starch.

At least a dozen Chinese babies died and more than 200 were sickened with symptoms associated with malnutrition after drinking infant formula made of sugar and starch with few nutrients. In another case, lard for human consumption was made with hog slop, sewage, pesticides and recycled industrial oil.

Some Vietnamese have been so shaken by news of tainted Chinese foods, they are changing their eating habits. They are avoiding Chinese-made products and paying more — up to $2 a bowl — for pho at an air-conditioned chain restaurant with signs promising no formaldehyde or borax."