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China Food Imports Is It Really That Simple?

Outline
In a North American targeted screed, a copy/paste forward extolls the evils of food products imported from China.  As the screed specifically targets North American imports, this article also focuses primarily on US/North American imports from China. However, the implications of the analysis could be applied to any importing country.

Chinese Imports

© Depositphotos.com/MyVector



Brief Analysis
For a number of years, news media has been riddled with reports of goods made in China that ranged from sub-par construction to products being tainted by mercury content and lead paint.  As China’s exports of food products has increased over the years, so has reports of contamination and other hazards – some of which are frighteningly accurate.  In simplest terms, the forwarded screed attempts to entice the reader into eschewing any and all Chinese exports – as well as those from other Asiatic countries – in favor of North American grown products.  In many cases you’d more likely never even have the option, such as in commercially prepared food items.  In other cases, federal regulations make the choice moot.  And trying to couch the entire screed as a method of balancing the trade imbalance between North American countries and China is almost as laughable as it is misguided.

By David M. White

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Example
It is enough to make you throw up. Some foreign workers have to wear masks as they work in these places, because the food is so rotten and filthy, it makes them want to throw up. Many of their Fish on Fish Farms are fed Raw sewage daily. He said he has seen so much filth throughout their food growing and processing that he would "never" eat any of it. They raise this filth , put some food coloring and some flavorings on it, then they ship it to the USA for YOU to consume and feed to YOUR families. They have no Food & Safety Inspectors. They ship it to you to buy and poison your families and friends. Imported food we eat and the junk we buy

Green Giant frozen vegetables are from China , and so are most of Europe's Best.
Arctic Gardens are Okay. So is Birdseye.

Never buy the grocery store garlic unless it is clearly marked from USA or Canada, the other stuff is grown in people poop (even worse than chicken poop). China is the largest producer of garlic in the world U.S. is next.

Buy only local honey, much honey is shipped in huge containers from China and re-packed here.

Cold-FX is grown and packed in China and is full of fecal bacteria. Doesn't work anyway, big scam. If the country of origin is not clearly marked beware. If produce, ask an employee.

Watch out for packages which state "prepared for", "packed by" or "imported by". I don't understand the lack of mandatory labeling, especially the produce. The country of origin should be clearly shown on the item in the store. I go to the local farmers' markets in season and keep a wary eye open the rest of the year.

Please read this very carefully, and read to the very bottom. It's important for all of us.

How is it possible to ship food from China cheaper than having it produced in the U.S. or Canada?

FOR EXAMPLE
THE "OUR FAMILY" BRAND OF MANDARIN ORANGES SAYS RIGHT ON THE CAN 'FROM
CHINA '. SO, FOR A FEW MORE CENTS, BUY THE LIBERTY BRAND. GOLD BRAND OR THE DOLE IS FROM CALIFORNIA Beware, Costco sells canned peaches and pears in a plastic jar that come from China.

ALL "HIGH LINER" AND MOST OTHER FROZEN FISH PRODUCTS COME FROM CHINA OR INDONESIA. THE PACKAGE MAY SAY "PACIFIC SALMON" ON THE FRONT, BUT LOOK FOR THE SMALL PRINT. MOST OF THESE PRODUCTS COME FROM FISH FARMS IN THE ORIENT WHERE THERE ARE NO REGULATIONS ON WHAT IS FED TO THESE FISH.

Recently The Montreal Gazette had an article by the Canadian Government on how Chinese feed the fish: They suspend chicken wire crates over the fish ponds, and the fish feed on chicken s--t. If you search the Internet about what the Chinese feed their fish, you'll be alarmed; e.g., growth hormones, expired anti-biotic from humans. Never buy any type of fish or shellfish that comes from these countries:
Vietnam,
China,
Philippines.

Check this out personally. I did. Steinfeld's Pickles are made in India - just as bad!

Another example is in canned mushrooms. No-Name brand came from Indonesia.

Also check those little fruit cups. They used to be made in Canada in the Niagara region until about 2 years ago. They are now packaged in China !

While the Chinese export inferior and even toxic products, dangerous toys, and goods to be sold in North American markets, the media wrings its hands!

Yet, 70% of North Americans believe that the trading privileges afforded to the Chinese should be suspended!

Well, duh! Why do you need the government to suspend trading privileges?

SIMPLY DO IT YOURSELF, CANADA AND THE U.S.

Simply look on the bottom of every product you buy, and if it says 'Made in China' or 'PRC' (and that now includes Hong Kong ), simply choose another product, or none at all. You will be amazed at how dependent you are on Chinese products, and you will be equally amazed at what you can do without.

THINK ABOUT THIS:

If 200 million North Americans refuse to buy just $20 each of Chinese goods, that's a billion dollar trade imbalance resolved in our favor... fast! The downside? Some Canadian/American businesses will feel a temporary pinch from having foreign stockpiles of inventory.

Just one month of trading losses will hit the Chinese for 8% of their North American exports. Then they will at least have to ask themselves if the benefits of their arrogance and lawlessness are worth it.

START NOW and don't stop.

Send this to everybody you know. Let's show them that we are intelligent, and NOBODY can take us for granted.

Detailed Analysis


This is one of those where one must be willing to look at facts and put jingoistic xenophobia aside long enough to see where the true hazards are versus those that are simply fear mongering while ignoring the fact that sometimes the ‘local’ produce is also a source of as many immediate hazards as the foreign grown product.
And in the interest of full disclosure, let me state this up front (for those that will actually have bothered to read this far):
There are certain industries where I wholeheartedly support ‘buy local’ and ‘support your local growers’. That is primarily a result of where I live and farmers that I know. I am a big supporter of recent trends for local restaurants to purchase from local growers; and that includes everything from pond-raised catfish to hydroponically grown lettuce to dairy and beef. I have helped campaign for accurate labeling of fish (e.g., species and source), in large part because I have friends who make their living farming pond-raised catfish. I only buy honey that is produced in the hives of a good friend who supplements his income running an apiary. But I make no pretense that I’m doing so to somehow make any small dent in the US trade deficit with China.

To attempt to address this rambling screed, let’s just start at the beginning and work our way down:
The screed starts by trying to paint as revolting a picture as possible of Asiatic farming and food production and is presumably starting off addressing the fish industry in China before wandering off on other produce: workers having to wear masks so as not to throw up, rotting meat, adding food coloring and then no system for inspection. Aside from sounding like the usual PETA campaign against the US meat packing industry, this ignores the reality that exported fish does get inspected when it reaches the importing country. It is true that the concept of regulating the widely diversified fisheries industry in China is a relatively new concept for them. Which is where much of the problem has been: fisheries in China range from large commercial operations that are much more tightly run down to tens of thousands of small farmers with small ponds. Ditto for Vietnam on a smaller scale – another country targeted later in the screed. It is very true that some of those farmers have used more ‘economical’ methods of feeding their ponds – including feeding the fish waste from other livestock. But then we are talking about fish. They do poop where they live. Far more concerning is the use of antibiotics that are not approved in the US or Canada. And the harvesting of fish from highly polluted waterways. But let’s not forget that there are a considerable number of recalls of food products every year that have nothing to do with any other country’s production methods. Sometimes it happens right here at home.

Imported Fish

Depositphotos.com/spaxiax

While the Chinese government has made progress is reigning in the industry and instituting some sort of controls – we’re talking about 200 million farms and food production companies. Read that again… 200 MILLION. Getting that entirely under control could only be likened to herding cats. And since we’re talking about the Chinese government, we’re also talking about a system that won’t tell anyone HOW they are going about testing and verifying proper processes and controls are being followed. Most folks, including the USDA, have not been overly impressed.

Given that situation, along with some highly publicized contamination incidents, the US FDA has just effectively brought the import of 5 specific types of farmed fish to a screeching halt (basa, catfish, shrimp, eel and dace).
More on fish later, as the forwarded screed returns to the topic….

The companies usually listed in this forward, Green Giant, Birdseye and Europe’s Best, are all muti-national companies that source their produce from all over the globe. Including China. As noted for Green Giant (since they were the ‘bad’ example given in the screed), not all Green Giant vegetables are from China. In fact most are still US sourced. However, Green Giant does source globally for certain vegetables that are only grown in certain parts of the world and sometimes one region might offer superior conditions for growing a certain crop. Produce sourced from China will say 'Product of China' on the label. In fact, Green Giant has been working on an app based system that would enable consumers to scan the barcode on a product and have info they can drill down on all the way to country of origin, what farm, and even what specific field it was harvested from.
Garlic: China is far and away the world's largest garlic producer. In fact, in any given year China produces between 75% and 80% of the world's total garlic production. So far as the fields being fertilized with sewage, so what? It's called fertilizer. And with that much tonnage of garlic coming into the US and Canada, it’s a bit optimistic to think your personal buying habits at your local grocer are going to make that big a dent… what is sold through supermarkets is a fraction of what would be used in commercial applications… like that bottle of dried ground garlic in your cupboard. Or what’s used by restaurants. Or especially what’s used in commercial food preparation (i.e., read the labels on all the rest of the products in your cupboard and freezer and see how many contain garlic).

Honey – as I noted at the start, I support buying local honey. However it’s probably worth mentioning that you shouldn’t have to worry about finding Chinese honey in the US or Canada in the first place due to rather steep tariffs. And if you do wind up with it, it's entirely due to deception by North American importers. Since they are in on the deception, the labeling will be inaccurate, so I personally do recommend sourcing your honey locally.

The Cold-FX bit relates to an older issue where a liquid version of the product was found to be contaminated. The fact that the product itself, with or without contamination, might be of questionable benefit should be the greater consideration.

Over 50% of the world’s total Mandarin Orange production is from China. The US produces less than 2% of production. Dole absolutely does source Mandarins from China. So do the other brands listed.

Peaches and pears have been a ‘market share’ battle between US growers and increasing Chinese imports for a few years now… but that has simply been a market share battle. Previous concerns relating to contamination of pears especially have not singled out China in particular since pears are imported from dozens of countries.

Back to fish again! Attempts to find the claimed article from the Montreal Gazette have turned up only one article that mentions fish being fed on feces from pigs. And that article was actually about bacterial contamination is all sorts of meats and produce world-wide and just mentioned the China connection in passing. There are certainly issues regarding Chinese fisheries and the pollution in their rivers. I will also repeat here that I am somewhat biased on this issue as catfish farming is a rather significant industry where I live, and some of those farms also raise Tilapia. The state I live in actually passed legislation requiring restaurants to post prominent notices regarding the source of the fish they serve, and pressed for national legislation for the US that was passed in 2002 regarding 'catfish' labeling. As can be seen in this article - it's all sorts of fish that are misidentified, whether intentionally or negligently. And since tilapia gets the top billing in several versions of the forward… Whether for nutritional reasons or risk of contamination, locally sourced is probably your best option.
Steinfield Pickles was sold years ago and their operations in Oregon shuttered. I’m not a big fan of pickles to start with, but it appears the only reason for this being included is because the production was moved overseas. No claims that they are ‘hazardous’… just that they haven’t tasted the same since production was moved. Not seeing the relevance.
Mushrooms… Indonesia has been the major source of mushrooms for the US for about a decade now, followed by India. The forwarded screed missed its chance here… while there have been no concerns regarding Indonesian produced ‘shrooms, Chinese authorities have halted all export of China grown ‘shrooms to the US due to contamination concerns. (Note that halt was called by CHINESE authorities – which would conflict with the forward’s claim that there is no inspection process in China).
Fruit cups… really? No brand or anything? Just fruit cups? I don’t even like the things, so just read the label.
There is no source given for the “70% of North Americans believe that the trading privileges afforded to the Chinese should be suspended” claim. This would fall under the category of “94.6% of statistics on the internet are made up.”

The rest of it is simply a gross oversimplification of trade economy. Which even most mainstream media don’t get right. We live in a global economy when it comes to consumer goods, and what may be intended to have a targeted impact in another place can easily have an equal impact more locally. It’s important to keep in mind that some items that are counted as ‘imports’ are actually made with North American sourced material, assembled overseas and shipped back. The North American company has never relinquished ownership of the goods or material, but it’s still an ‘import’.

Beyond that, the hoped for “$1 billion” resolution to the trade imbalance (last I checked, 20 times 200 million actually equals 4 billion): even using the correct $4 billion figure that’s barely 1% of the total US trade deficit with China. And that doesn’t include Canada’s own CAD$30+ billion trade deficit with China.

Bottom line – there’s plenty of good reasons to avoid some specific foods sourced from China. To their credit, they are showing some progress in regulating their own industries. Until they have a better handle on it, there is clear evidence that US/Canadian authorities are taking appropriate actions when necessary to protect US & Canadian consumers. If you feel compelled to caution your friends about real hazards related to products imported from China, you’d be better of linking a current and relevant news article or caution issued by a relevant investigative authority instead of forwarding a rambling, disjointed copy/pasta. It’s too damned long in the first place.

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Last updated: July 12, 2013
First published: July 12, 2013
Written by David M. White
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References
http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/recalls-and-public-health-alerts/current-recalls-and-alerts
http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/eib-economic-information-bulletin/eib52.aspx#.Ud4DK22Zbbp
http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/cms_ia/importalert_33.html
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