The Fake Food Industry

Living abroad comes with all sorts of wild and crazy twists & turns. I have thoroughly enjoyed our 3 years living here and look forward to many more to come. With the excitement and thrills of an expat life, come situations that just make you want to scratch you head and ask “but, why…” at least a hundred times if not more. The biggest issue that entertains my questioning at times is the export/import industry here, specifically for this post as it relates to food.

Perhaps because I have a baby now and choose to live as my husband says not “under a rock” I am more aware of what really happens in the food industry here. I have always been one to say the Father’s prayer “I will put it down, you please keep it down” when it comes to food while traveling abroad. This has always been of course chased by a dose of pepto-bismol LOL. In recent months however I have found myself among a close circle of expats in our country who seek to find verifiable, traceable, clean, safe, and fresh products for my family to consume.

Much like in the USA, I have visited a lot of bakeries, wet markets (not quite supermarket but most have produce, eggs, and meat available), and supermarkets both local & foreign chains alike looking for the best deals and the best quality. With the service of public transportation (bus and metro system) I manage to shop at 3-5 stores with each trip to stock up on groceries for my family. I like the import bulk food store METRO for beef, sausage, imported whole cream UHT milk, canned goods, Thai or Cambodian rice, and the occasional imported baking & cooking supplies like oil & flour. On occasion I will visit Ole, City Super, or City Shop which all carry various imported goods (at imported prices too so its more of a treat unless someone tells us of a sale on milk, cheese, and butter). For vegetables and fruit I prefer the wet markets and have come to find vendors who I trust for their produce (cleanliness, taste, price, color). Because I prefer free range eggs, my husband will often walk to a very local wet market for a dozen eggs fresh picked that morning.

You might find this to be a bit of overkill and think why can’t I just shop at one store for all of my families needs. Why bother with imported products and a hunt for deals when everything is made here anyways?! Food safety for products made here for the local consumer just doesn’t have the strictest of standards. In just the past few months, there have been more reports of fake eggs, fake rice, and toxic seasonings & sauces confiscated! Often times when trying to buy meat at a wet market, you won’t truly know what kind of meat you are getting (dog meat while highly illegal here is becoming a big problem, and the latest trend is to trick buyers with rat meat who thought they were buying lamb or goat). The same is true for fish & seafood – last year we saw a news posting about people injecting toxins into crabs to give them the vibrant orange/red color so that they would sell!

Who knows, maybe all of my efforts are for nothing and I am buying fake rice, dog meat, and fake eggs.Guess living here one will really never know.

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