Chinese Refrigeration Threatens Planet, New York Times Magazine Warns

Chinese Refrigeration Threatens Planet, New York Times Magazine Warns

It’s easy in America to take refrigeration for granted. After all, it has been in use since the late 1800s and home refrigerators became ubiquitous in the 1950s.

However, China’s “refrigeration boom” is still only decades old, according to an article by Nicola Twilley in July 27 issue of The New York Times magazine. But even though this will improve life in China for many people, as Twilley said, it was portrayed as a grave danger for the planet.

The subhead proclaimed, “A refrigeration boom is changing the way Chinese people eat -- and threatening the planet in the process.”

After profiling Chen Zemin, China’s frozen dumpling billionaire, Twilley divulged the bad news. Refrigeration in China “stands to become a formidable new factor in climate change; cooling is already responsible for 15 percent of all electricity production worldwide, and leaks of chemical refrigerants are a major source of greenhouse-gas pollution. Of all the shifts in lifestyle that threaten the planet right now, perhaps not one is as important as the changing way that Chinese people eat.”

Yet, Twilley admitted in the story that refrigeration, along with pasteurization and food safety, is what cut food-borne illness and disease by 90 percent in the U.S. in just 50 years. In China, a country where Twilley noted that the average person has digestive problems, essentially “a kind of low-level recurring food poisoning” twice every week, creating a cold chain for food from farm to retail would be a boon.

Despite all of this, the Times magazine still complained about the potential greenhouse gases such improvements would cause. Twilley also quoted others critical of Chinese refrigeration, including a British cook who whined that ancient Chinese preservation techniques are dying out because of refrigeration, and a Chinese chef named Dai Jianjun who claimed frozen food was “not food.”

— Julia A. Seymour is Assistant Managing Editor for MRC Business at the Media Research Center. Follow Julia A. Seymour on Twitter.