Chinese garlic is cheap but I won’t be buying it ever again. Here’s why.

By on August 22, 2016

We know that when it comes to food, the safety of our family comes first. What most of us don’t know though is how safe really are the foods we buy here in Japan.  Garlic is a key ingredient to most of what we cook at home and so I did a bit of research.

Chinese garlic is roughly 7 times cheaper than Japan’s homegrown garlic (from Aomori). Over 91% of garlic sold at your local greengrocer, supermarket and/or convenience stores is imported from China and just 8% is from Spain. (source: 80% of garlic supply including organic garlic in the world is in fact shipped from China where certification method and standards remain to be questionable.


Chinese 3 pcs


Japanese garliv


At a local green grocer where I shop, 3 heads of garlic cost ¥150 and a head of Japanese garlic is ¥350. China’s price beats Japan’s by a mile. I must admit I’ve bought Chinese garlic at some point but after learning  the facts,  I won’t be buying Chinese garlic ever again – for the following reasons:

1) Soil
China’s farmlands are ten times more exposed to cadmium and arsenic than Japan. Cadmium is a toxic metal in plant foods which is said to contain carcinogen, a cancer-causing substance. Arsenic is used in pesticides with some naturally occurring in water and soil. China has had a major disease called Itai-itai caused by high levels of cadmium in foods.

In Japan’s high growth period in the 50’s and 60’s, Japan had also experienced a major environmental pollution that caused the same disease as well as Minamata and Yokkaiichi Asthma. However, over time, Japan’s early response has pre-empted the reccurrence of such diseases. China today is experiencing what Japan went through 60 plus years ago.

2) Chemicals
Chinese growers use bleach to whiten the garlic and kill insects. It is also no surprise that there is no limit as to how much lead, cadmium and arsenic is allowed in organic garlic because in China, anything goes.

Other foods Japan import from China are bamboo shoots, ginger, carrots, lotus root, shiitake mushrooms, radish, eggplants where sulfur dioxide and acephate of triadimenol have been detected. Sulfur Dioxide used in preservatives, bleaching and to prevent oxidation by Chinese growers can also cause abnormal reaction leading to bronchial disorders and allergies.

3) Water
In China, there is virtually no environmental laws. Water from the river is often used in organic food. Even though a standard process is being followed for organic production, the presence of toxic waste through chemicals and metals dumped in the river make the crops unfit for human consumption. Case in point: In 2013, a Chinese environmental official was offered more than $30,000 to swim for 20 minutes in a local polluted river. He declined. Even the head of China’s Ministry of Water Resources admits that in 2012, ‘up to 40% of the country’s rivers are seriously polluted.’


So there, I’ve laid out to you the reasons why paying for a few yen more for a head of garlic grown in Japan is way safer than biting the Chinese bullet.


About Julie Wilson


  1. Christine

    August 22, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    When Japan imports food from China, don’t they have policies to only allow food that are within their current high safety standards?
    Please advice.

    • Administrator

      August 23, 2016 at 9:21 am

      Trust that we will investigate Japan’s food inspection process more and will post them here in the next few days.