Pinning Coronavirus on How Chinese People Eat Plays Into Racist Assumptions

Jenny G. Zhang wrote . . . . . . . . .

While panic and fear abound in response to the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak that has killed at least 304 people in China and infected more than 14,557 worldwide as on February 2, 2020, there has also been a conspicuous — if not entirely surprising — lack of empathy for those who are suffering most from the virus: the Chinese people who face lockdowns, supply shortages, and a higher chance of contracting the illness.

The outbreak has had a decidedly dehumanizing effect, reigniting old strains of racism and xenophobia that frame Chinese people as uncivilized, barbaric “others” who bring with them dangerous, contagious diseases and an appetite for dogs, cats, and other animals outside the norms of Occidental diets. These ideas, perennially the subtext behind how Chinese people are viewed by the Western gaze, have been given oxygen anew after preliminary reports linked the coronavirus outbreak to a Wuhan wet market where produce and meat are sold alongside livestock and more exotic wildlife like snakes, civet cats, and bamboo rats; and to bats, which are frequent carriers of viruses that cause human disease.

Tabloids like the Daily Mail quickly resurfaced old videos of Chinese people eating bat and mice that had nothing to do with the current outbreak (the bat video, as Foreign Policy’s James Palmer points out, didn’t even take place in China, but the Pacific archipelago of Palau; meanwhile, the “delicacy” shown in the mice video has been debunked; it is not popular or mainstream by any means). People commented “This is not human behaviour” on the articles; on Twitter, searching for anything related to keywords like “China,” “eat,” “virus,” and “food” is enough to bring up an endless scroll of statements that suggest that Chinese people “deserve” the karmic retribution in the form of the deaths and illnesses that the virus has wrought, at least in part because of what they eat.

There are a few threads to untangle in this recent wave of Sinophobia. First, as Palmer writes for Foreign Policy, the supposition that Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Market is the source of the outbreak has not yet been confirmed. According to a study in the Lancet by Chinese researchers and doctors, more than a third of the earliest known cases of this virus — including the outbreak’s first known case — had no connection to the market. Without more research and evidence, it’s premature to assert definitively that the virus jumped from bat to humans through meat consumption at the market. As Charlie Campbell writes for Time, the “Child Zero” victim of Ebola in West Africa was likely infected via contact with bat droppings, and “MERS was also primarily spread from live camels to humans through association, rather than the eating of camel meat.”

Second, the hypocritical idea that some animals are socially permissible to eat, while others are not, is a belief in one’s own cultural hegemony. American meat companies produced 26.3 billion pounds of beef in 2017; in India, the slaughter or sale of cows is prohibited in multiple states, and has been weaponized by Hindu nationalists against the Muslim minority. Eating horse meat has historic precedence in Europe (including France) and Asia; the appearance of horse tartare on an episode of Top Chef Canada in 2011 was enough to trigger a boycott and mass outrage. Wild game — including deer, squirrel, and feral hogs — are still hunted and eaten in the U.S., a tradition that would surely make residents of some other nations turn up their nose. And that’s not to mention the mass-produced and overly processed junk that has overtaken Americans’ plates, leaving people “simultaneously overfed and undernourished.”

Vice’s Bettina Makalintal puts it perfectly:

In the United States, where we’re used to a limited protein range and a shopping model that puts plastic-wrapped, disembodied animal parts in cold cases at grocery stores, there’s an undercurrent that what people in Asia eat is inherently “weird” and unsettling. When those eating practices are linked, however inconclusively, to health scares—as they are currently—those beliefs become loud rationalizations for dehumanizing Chinese people and treating their lives as less worthy.

Some of the complaints about China’s eating habits are concerned more with the cruelty of select slaughter methods, like the treatment of dogs at the annual Lychee and Dog Meat Festival in Yulin. If the aim is, rightly, ethical and humane treatment of animals, then of course those practices should be eliminated (there are plenty of Chinese people who advocate for better animal welfare), but so too should the relentless U.S. model of intensive farming.

There are legitimate objections to the lack of hygiene and regulations in China’s wet markets and food system that allows for the spread of dangerous pathogens. “The country’s food-safety standards are notoriously bad, despite numerous government-led initiatives to improve them,” Palmer writes for Foreign Policy. “Food scandals are common, and diarrhea and food poisoning are a distressingly regular experience. Markets, like Huanan, that aren’t licensed for live species nevertheless sell them. Workers are undertrained in basic hygiene techniques like glove-wearing and hand-washing. Dangerous additives are commonly used to increase production.”

But, as Palmer points out, these conditions aren’t unique: “It looks, in fact, a lot like the United States did in the past, before muckraking exposés led to the creation of modern regulation systems.” Even today, the U.S. is far from a paragon of food-safety regulations gone right. The routine use of antibiotics in factory farming has helped create drug-resistant bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. Food recalls have become more common — with E. coli found in lettuce practically every other week — at least in part because “regulations and enforcement mechanisms are not keeping pace with changes in food production,” per Time. Under the Trump administration, regulations have gotten even more lax — a new rule last fall eliminated slaughter-line speed limits and reduced the number of Department of Agriculture inspectors in pork plants.

Chinese people are calling for improved standards and practices. Per Palmer: “Seventy-seven percent of the public ranks food safety as their single biggest concern.” In response to the current outbreak, there’s been an “unusual outpouring of public sentiment against the trade of live animals,” the New York Times reports. “A campaign on Weibo, the social media platform, drew 45 million views with the hashtag #rejectgamemeat.” The government has once again issued a ban on wildlife trade, and leading scientists and many Chinese people are calling for that ban to be made permanent.

A viral outbreak like this undoubtedly requires action, both immediate and in the long term. But fearmongering and callously using rhetoric that suggests that Chinese people — who, it should be made clear, are not one and the same as the Chinese government and the ruling Communist Party — deserve this outbreak as some kind of payback for “barbarian” customs is, at its core, blatant prejudice. Racist memes and unsympathetic language are not just pixels on a screen: the anti-Chinese sentiment is having a very real effect. Businesses have posted signs barring Chinese customers from entry; families overseas are being targeted and asked to quarantine themselves. “The subreddit r/CoronavirusMemes casually jokes about nuking the entire city of Wuhan,” Makalintal reports for Vice.

The coronavirus outbreak, which the World Health Organization just declared a global health emergency, is alarming. A degree of apprehension and caution is perfectly warranted. But it’s telling that sympathy — or any regard, for that matter — for the outbreak’s vast majority of victims in China seems to be in short supply. As if devaluing other humans’ lives will protect your own.

Source: Eater

Brown Rice and Bean Bowl with Egg and Avocado


3 tsp butter, divided
1/2 cup diced onions
1-1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 cup cooked black beans (canned or frozen)
3/4 tsp each ground cumin and chili powder
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
2 eggs
1/2 medium avocado, sliced
1/2 cup salsa
1/4 cup shredded part-skim old (sharp) cheddar cheese (1 oz)


  1. In a small, non-stick skillet, heat 1 tsp butter over medium heat. Add onions. Cook and stir until onions are tender, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add rice, beans, cumin and chili powder to onions in skillet. Mix well, until rice and beans are coated with seasonings. Stir in lime juice and 2 tbsp water. Cook and stir for 1 more minute. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Divide mixture in half and transfer to two serving bowls, cover and keep warm.
  3. Wipe skillet clean and cook the eggs. Heat remaining 2 tsp butter in skillet over medium heat until it’s foamy. Crack the eggs and gently add them to the skillet. Cook until the whites are set and start to brown a bit around the edges. Slide a spatula under eggs and gently flip. Cook for 30 more seconds.
  4. Remove eggs from skillet and place over rice and bean mixture in each bowl. Arrange sliced avocados beside the eggs, then add a dollop of salsa and a sprinkle of cheese. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings.

Source: Yum & Yummer

Gadget: Cabbage Shredder

Kai Cabbage Peeler (貝印のキャベツピーラー)

Suitable for left-hand and right-hand use

Shredded Cabbage

The price is 770 yen (plus tax) in Japan.

Ageism Affects People Around the Globe

Discrimination based on age — ageism — is widespread throughout the world, and it takes a toll, new research reveals.

The study of more than 7 million people aged 50 and older in 45 countries found that age affected whether or not they got medical treatment and, whether the treatment, its length and frequency were appropriate.

The investigators reviewed 422 published studies, and found that 96% of older people experienced ageism.

According to the new report, ageism led to poor outcomes in depression and physical health, including shorter life expectancy.

“The injurious reach of ageism that our team documented demonstrates the need for initiatives to overcome ageism,” said senior author Becca Levy, a professor of psychology at Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Conn.

In 85% of the studies, her team found that health care was denied to older people, and in 92%, ageism affected medical decisions.

Ageism affects people regardless of age, sex, or race and ethnicity, the researchers noted in a Yale news release.

Study first author E-Shien Chang, a doctoral student in the Yale School of Public Health, said, “Our research highlights the importance of recognizing the influence of ageism on health. Policies to improve older persons’ health must take ageism into account.”

The study was published online recently in the journal PLOS ONE.

Source: HealthDay

Living Longer is Important, but Those Years Need to be Healthy Ones

Data reported in the just published American Heart Association’s Heart & Stroke Statistics – 2020 Update, show heart disease and stroke deaths continue to decline, but that trend has slowed significantly in recent years. Further discouraging is that more people are living in poor health, beginning at a younger age, as a direct result of risk factors that contribute to these leading causes of death worldwide.

To build on its mission to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives, the American Heart Association, the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke, has published a presidential advisory in the journal, Circulation, outlining new national and global 2030 Impact Goals to help all people live healthier for more years of their life.

  • Across the US: Together, we will equitably increase healthy life expectancy from 66 to at least 68 years by 2030.
  • Around the world: Together with global and local collaborators, we will equitably increase worldwide healthy life expectancy from 64 to at least 67 years by 2030.

“We know people are living longer thanks in part to nearly a century of dedicated efforts from volunteers, staff and many invaluable supporters joining the American Heart Association in our fight again heart disease and stroke, leading to improvements in disease control and prevention, advancements in medical treatments and improved lifestyle behaviors,” said American Heart Association president Robert A. Harrington, M.D., FAHA. “Unfortunately, not all those years are healthy ones as the effects of chronic illnesses are increasingly impacting the quality of life of people at a much younger age than in the past.”

Goal progress will be tracked by the Health-Adjusted Life Expectancy (HALE) metric, commonly referred to as Healthy Life Expectancy, which anticipates the number of years a person can expect to live in good health. It’s a comprehensive single metric that provides an estimate of overall health across a person’s lifetime and captures both physical and mental health conditions. That is especially relevant to the broader focus on overall health and well-being emphasized in the new goals.

Over the past decade, key factors that support ideal cardiovascular health have seen some positive movement across the U.S. Reports show adults are getting more active and, overall, people are eating healthier, smoking cigarettes less and better controlling their cholesterol. But that good news is offset by major setbacks in other critical areas, especially among youth, a trend that puts upcoming generations at even higher risk for facing major health issues at younger ages.

According to the Association’s Heart & Stroke Statistics – 2020 Update:

  • Obesity rates are on the rise in children and adults — nearly 40% of U.S. adults and 18.5% of youth are now obese.
  • Physical activity rates are abysmally low among youth — less than a third of U.S. students take part in a daily physical education class and only 26% meet national recommendations of an hour a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity.
  • Rates for uncontrolled high blood sugar are leading more people toward diabetic and pre-diabetic conditions — diabetes prevalence in the U.S. increased 129.7% for males and 120.9% for females between 1990 and 2017.
  • While cigarette smoking in the U.S. is down among adults and at all-time lows for teens, the growing youth vaping epidemic is making daily headlines and the global use of tobacco continues to climb — in 2015, there were more than 933 million smokers, globally.
  • The trends are even more devastating among certain races, ethnicities, genders and geographic locations — at least 80% of the world’s smokers, most of whom are male, live in low- and middle-income countries.

“We believe every person should enjoy health and well-being no matter their age, gender, race or even the zip code in which they live. And, we know disparities exist even to that level — from one block of a city to another,” said John Warner, M.D., FAHA, 2017-18 president of the American Heart Association, lead author of the presidential advisory and Executive Vice President for Health System Affairs at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “To improve individual health, we must make the environments where we live, work, learn and play equitably supportive of healthy behaviors. We also need to help people better understand the impact their communities have in driving choices for health and well-being.”

In a Harris Poll recently conducted for the American Heart Association, most respondents (93%) agreed that living a long, healthy life is important to them and believe everyone deserves the longest, healthiest life possible (92%). However, there appears to be a disconnect between their desires and their understanding of how those intentions connect back to their behaviors, as less than half of the respondents (49%) strongly agreed their behavior influences their health and well-being and only a third (34%) strongly agreed that their environment influences or supports their health choices.

“We need to make healthy choices the easy ones, make healthcare accessible and affordable and we need to get better at stopping preventable diseases before they start,” said Harrington, the Arthur L. Bloomfield Professor of Medicine and Chairman of the Department of Medicine at Stanford University. “Sometimes parents are more worried about whether they can feed their children anything, much less whether it’s healthy or not. If you’re living with high blood pressure, you shouldn’t have to worry about choosing between whether to pay rent or buy your medicine.”

Harrington said what will drive the success of the goals is working collaboratively with many diverse groups from local neighborhoods to global governments. Additional improvements will need to come through increased efforts for primary and secondary prevention, public health policies that impact populations, the establishment of effective, comprehensible and affordable healthcare systems and modifications to individual lifestyle behaviors.

“Much of this will be an expansion of efforts already underway with many committed collaborators, but it will be critical to bring in new ideas and resources to connect the collective vision with the creativity and innovation needed to make real change,” he said. “We’ll be inviting more people to the table, but even more importantly, we’re asking likeminded stakeholders to invite us in — let us help be a catalyst bringing together elements that can create a healthier world for everyone.”

While the basic metric of healthy life expectancy is well established, tracking progress and understanding trends to meet the 2030 goals will also require improvements in capturing the way health information is reported and analyzed. An accompanying publication to the 2030 goals is an American Heart Association policy statement outlining major recommendations for enhancing cardiovascular health and disease surveillance worldwide.

“In every country, in every city and village, we want everyone of all ages and backgrounds to be healthy and experience every simple joy, make every heartfelt memory, celebrate every special occasion they need and want to do,” said Harrington. “This is so much more than just wanting people to live to a ripe old age, we want them to live healthier, longer. And we’re dedicating ourselves to doing just that over the next decade.”

Source: American Heart Association

Today’s Comic