You may seem like the somewhat pretentious, paranoid foodie when you show up for Chinese takeout and movie night with your friends if you come in rocking your own sustainable bamboo chopsticks, but you might be the only one not getting sick (upset tummy from the greasy Chinese food not withstanding).
According to Shanghai Daily, a recent report found that disposable chopsticks can be made with sulfur dioxide, in order to kill mold and industrial grade hydrogen peroxide to bleach the sticks for cosmetic purposes. “But after being “beautified,” the chopsticks are dumped on the floor and packed without sterilizing the sticks or plastic wrapping,” explains Shanghai Daily.
An official from the Anji Quality and Technical Supervision Bureau, told the paper that the factory price of a pair of disposable bamboo chopsticks is “only 0.02 yuan (far less than 1 US cent), so they must be mass-produced efficiently to ensure profit; a factory’s daily yield can reach as much as 300,000 pairs.”
While chopstick factories are inspected for health codes, they’re not inspected for the chemicals used on the products. “It’s hard to distinguish the harmful chopsticks just by appearance. But people had better not choose the ones that look too white and perfectly smooth,” Jin Peihua, deputy secretary-general of the Shanghai Restaurants Association told Shangai Daily.
Exposure to sulfur dioxide can be harmful to the stomach, esophagus and lungs, and hydrogen peroxide can be harmful to DNA, explains Shanghai Daily, yet they’re more popular than ever. “Disposable chopsticks are in high demand in carry-out restaurants and noodle shops, fast-food eateries and snack stands.”
That’s not to say that all disposable chopsticks pose health risks, but if you find yourself frequently ordering Chinese takeout, you may want to make the investment into a high quality reusable pair of chopsticks. Or better yet, just use a fork.
Image: Amy Loves Yah