There’s been a lot of hysteria recently around Chinese food and drink. Some Chinese toothpaste poisoned people in Panama, and several American pets were killed by dodgy Chinese pet food.
On the back of that, people have been desperately hunting for more examples, and have even resorted to resurrecting some old urban myths. There is a whiff of xenophobia about it all (which is a bit distasteful) not to mention a bit of good old-fashioned tit-for-tat free market manouevring.
But I still find myself wondering: what about Chinese beer?
We had a party recently and told our guests there would be a prize for the most interesting beer donated to our cellar – we didn’t want to end up with 10 bottles of red wine and fifteen Kronenbourg Blanc at the end of the night. Someone brought a bottle of Tsingtao, which is now sitting amongst the stash. Is it kosher?
Well, Danwei, a website about media, advertising, and urban life in China, published this piece in 2005. It claims that up to 95% of Chinese beer contains formaldehyde. Eurgh. Before you panic, though, there is a later correction: it’s probably only about 65%. Phew!
As far as I can tell, formaldehyde is used as a cheap alternative to silica gel, which itself is used to clear beer quickly so it needs less time to mature.
Thankfully for my bottle of Tsingtao, however, the article also suggests that most Chinese beer made for export is made without formaldehyde. Tsingtao is also well regarded and has won awards worldwide. So, although I probably won’t like it anymore than the last time I had it, it won’t cause me severe pain, vomiting, coma or death.