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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Our Dependence on China

Here is an interesting article from NPR about Chinese imports. First it was pet food and now it's toothpaste and children's toys. China turns out a great number of the goods that we consume here in the States and apparently quality isn't the top priority. In an increasingly global society, it is impossible to avoid some imports without going into a cave and hunting and gathering your own food. But you can minimize your exposure to some of the dangers of consuming goods from countries where regulations aren't quite as strict as they are here. For one, you can support your local farmers at the farmer's markets in your area, sticking tofresh, seasonal foods as much as possible.

Here are a few thoughts about some of the things coming in from China.

Last month, FDA inspectors blocked 257 food shipments from China, according to the list.
In the past year, the FDA rejected a higher proportion of food shipments from China than from any other country.

China is increasing the number of food products exported to the US every year, while also having products fail the tests more than any other country, even after taking into account the higher volume of shipments.

When Hubbard was at the FDA, he heard all kinds of stories about foreign food processors, like the one a staffer told him after visiting a Chinese factory that makes herbal tea. "To speed up the drying process, they would lay the tea leaves out on a huge warehouse floor and drive trucks over them so that the exhaust would more rapidly dry the leaves out," Hubbard says. "And the problem there is that the Chinese use leaded gasoline, so they were essentially spewing the lead over all these leaves."
The FDA normally inspects about 1 percent of all food and food ingredients at U.S. borders. It does tests on about half of 1 percent.

How does that make you feel about eating imported food products?

Now, I'm not anti-globalization. I am a big believer in a free-market economy and in a capitalist society, what a business values first and foremost is money. Producing value for shareholders is the number 1 goal of a corporation, for better or for worse. We as consumers have to demand that our corporations give us safe products and if you are interested in stopping the flood of imported products, stop buying them (which can be very difficult). Remember that in an economy where money talks, voting with your dollars for the companies that take consumer protection into account is the strongest statement you can make.