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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Facts about Food from China

this is part of an ongoing series about Real Food. If you like what you read be sure to subscribe so you don't miss a single post.

Let me begin this post by saying that I think the Chinese Culture is a one rich in history and varied in cuisine. But lately, the great country of China has been more interested in maximizing profits while minimizing costs. In doing so they have had grave problems with food safety.
There has been a lot of news over the years about contamination of food from China. Most recently the news was about Arsenic in Apple Juice and earlier this summer we heard news about Honey being smuggled in from China.  So should we be shocked? No not really. China has had a long history of food safety problems. 
2007Malachite green is found in farmed fish imported from China. It is used to prevent infections in crowded fish ponds, but it can cause cancer and has been banned by the FDA for use in fish to be consumed by people.  The move came after 25% of the Chinese products the FDA sampled from October through May were found to contain residue of chemicals the FDA doesn't allow in fish. Most are known or suspected carcinogens. source. China remains the biggest producer of aquacultured seafood in the world, accounting for 70 percent of the total production and 55 percent of the total value of aquacultured seafood exported worldwide.he contaminants found in the fish are the antimicrobials nitrofuran, malachite green, gentian violet, and fluoroquinolone. Nitrofuran, malachite green and gentian violet, which are used to treat fungal infections, have been shown to be carcinogenic with long-term exposure in lab animals. The use of fluoroquinolones in food animals may increase antibiotic resistance to this class of antibiotics.
2007 Garlic – garlic has been contaminated with raw sewage that was used to fertilize the soil at the farms. Chlorine was used to bleach the bulbs to the pretty white color. Ever buy garlic at the farmer’s market? And chemicals were used to  prevent the bulbs from sprouting during the months of travel from China to the importing country.
2007 – That same year 900,000 tubes of toothpaste imported from China were found to be  contaminated with chemical used in antifreeze. These products  were found in institutions for the mentally ill, hospitals, prisons and  juvenile detention centers in Georgia and North Carolina, according to The New York Times.
2007 – Ginger Recall  The ginger was found to be contaminated with aldicarb sulfoxide, a pesticide that can cause nausea, headache and blurred vision when ingested by humans in small amounts. In larger amounts, it can cause dizziness, sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle stiffness and difficulty breathing.
2007 – All of the above was preceded by the largest pet food recall in US history because of melamine in the dog food. Melamine was used as a filler to bulk up volume in the food as well to give the appearance of higher protein content. The recalled pet food was then fed to livestock. Melamine is normally used in making plastic.
2008-2011  Melamine in Milk – this is an ongoing problem in China that first surfaced in 2008 and is continuing to cause problems this year.  The milk caused the death of several infants and the illness of countless more.  The melamine gives watered down milk  the appearance of  a high protein level.Perhaps most disturbing about the melamine in milk is that milk is used in many baked products.By the way - Do you know where McDonald’s gets it’s pies and other baked treats?
2011Exploding Watermelon – This summer there were stories about watermelon exploding in the fields. We now know that farmers gave the watermelons growth hormones that caused them to grow so fast they exploding.   The bad fruit was then fed to livestock (again).
2011  Cadmium in Rice Earlier this year 12 million tons of rice where found to be contaminated with cadmium, a heavy metal known to cause cancer.This problem is said to stem from the industrialization of the farm belt in China, Cadmium is used in the manufacturing of computers and other electronics.  Some samples were contaminated with up to five times the legal limit.
 2010  Bleach in Mushrooms  A young boy after having his mother tell him he could not eat mushrooms due to them being treated with bleach, began a study with the help of a PhD student and found that 81 per cent of fresh mushrooms on sale in the Chinese capital are bleached with harmful chemicals.Consuming bleaching chemicals can damage the liver and trigger asthma and skin allergies.
2011 - Borax in Pork, – borax was used in pork to make it look like beef
2011 –  There are other reports of  human birth control chemicals being used on cucumber plants, artificially dyed peppers and barite powder being injected into chickens to increase their weight.

food chinese

The Problem with Food Safety in China
As  I was doing research for this the same thing kept on coming up over and over, people in China have HIGH concerns for their own food safety. It is the number one topic  Many state farmers there will even grow their own food. That simple fact alone speaks volumes about the safety of food coming out of China. As a result, Chinese consumers fear for what is in their food. “Basically, people now feel nothing is safe to eat,” Sang Liwei, of the Food Safety Forum, told the  NY Times. “They don’t know what choices to make. They are really feeling very helpless.” Many wary customers in China prefer to buy imported goods, as they believe them to be safer. However, the Fruit Industry Association of Guangdong province told reporters that most ‘imported’ fruit are grown in China.
In a related story, activist Zhao Lianhai has disappeared after he was sentenced last month to two and half years in prison for seeking justice on behalf of the children poisoned in the melamine-milk scandal. The families involved  have not yet received any adequate compensation to pay for the expensive medical treatment the children require.
The Chinese have good reason to worry that heavy metals, pesticides and other contaminants are creeping into their food. China is the world's biggest producer and user of pesticides, and many farmers over-apply pesticides and fertilizers to get greater yields on limited arable land.
Matthew Crabbe, the managing director of Access Asia, a Shanghai-based market research firm.
Crabbe said foreign firms that obtained food ingredients in China "would probably be safer to actually buy some farmland there and grow  it themselves."
Food safety has become an issue in China because of increased pressures to produce more food on less than desirable land.  Couple that with the fact that China manufactures and uses more pesticides than any other country and you have the perfect mix for chemical warfare on food.
In the course of research for this post I found out that it is possible to get organic produce in China. Organic produce is reserved for important government officials and athletes.

What can we do?
Reading labels is often not enough, Products like garlic and ginger are often removed from their cases and merchandised loose in bins or on shelves. This problem is not new and looks like it will be continuing for a while, since China  does not have enough food safety inspectors to check food.  When food safety is concerned my advice tis to grow what you can on your own, and know where your food is coming from.  I really enjoying knowing the people that  I get my food from personally. I am even lucky enough to call some of them friends.

additional resources
China Food Safety
Tropic Post – China’s Wide Spread Contamination of Food

As I was doing research for this post I did find out that you can get organic food in China. Organic food is reserved for important government officials and star athletes. So while they believe in altering the food and throwing tons of pesticides at it in order to increase production, they also acknowledge that organic food is better for you, by reserving the best  food for the elite.

This post is linked up with Green and Natural MamasLiving Well Blog HopYour Green Resource, Fresh Bites Friday,Traditional Tuesdays t


Conservamom said...

As always I LOVE your food (actually all your articles) but this was great!! I am definitely forwarding
this on to some of my more "skeptical" friends.

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Thanks so much, your comment is pure joy to me. These articles do take up a big amount of time. But the info is too important not to share.

Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama said...

Thank you for all of your diligent research and for getting the word out there!

And of course, thank you for linking up at Green & Natural Mamas Thursday! <3

Good Girl Gone Green said...

WOW! Great info! Thanks Lisa!

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Thanks Charise, truth be told I enjoy doing research.

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Stephanie - thank you so much.

Nina said...

Reading this kind of stuff infuriates me. There is no reason that we need to eat food from the other side of the world. How can it be cheaper to transport it all over here?! It makes no sense. It's all about money and politics and greedy people. *sigh*

I love what you've put together here. I talk to anyone who will listen about the importance of knowing where your food comes from, buying local and buying organic.

Definitely sharing this! Thank you!

Gaby @ Tmuffin said...

Wow. You did a lot of research. I have to come back to this and read it over and over again... bookmarking. There is so much good information here! I'm glad I started my fall garden! So much less to worry about.

The Gentle Mom said...

Thank you so much for sharing. This is a great article to pass along to those who think I'm a bit...overzealous about buying local, organic produce. :)

Thinkbirth said...

Really vital to share this information. Thanks so much for doing so. The plastic in powdered milk ruse is such a tragic story. So many babies hurt and killed :(

I too am careful about food sources and grow my own where possible. Another important safety feature is to eat as close to the source as possible and avoid out of season produce and processed items (hard to call much of that 'food'). Buying local produce makes so much sense from so many angles.

Thanks again for an important and very clear health message. I feel for the Chinese people who are feeling so concerned about the food available in their home country -that would be a very difficult situation and clearly is, given what's happened to activists there.

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Carolyn, Since I published this I have found out that organic produce is available in China but is saved for those who are important. And the activist who was trying to get money for the families, whose babies, were hurt with the melamine in milk scare has disappeared.

Kim said...

There's a paragraph that's repeated in your text up there. (Just thought you'd want to know!) :)

Love this information. I'm planting my own garlic this fall-- it harvests in spring and keeps for quite a while. Just buy an organic clove, divide it up and plant the largest cloves. Easy!

Rachel @ day2day joys said...

Wow! Learned a lot from this post & crazy about the controversy with Dr. Oz a couple weeks ago! Thank you for linking up at Healthy 2day Wednesdays! Sorry I have been out of the loop for a bit, we have moved houses! Hope you'll join in this week!

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Glad to see you are Back Rachel, I will be sure to join up this week for Healthy 2day Wednesday

teresa said...

This is a great post. I thought I knew all about this subject, but I did not!
Thank you for taking the time.

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