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July 05, 2007

Global Eats

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Wal-Mart, General Mills, and Kellogg's are importing ever-more food from China. Interesting facts for the day:

In 2000, China accounted for 1 million pounds, or less than 1%, of all U.S. fresh garlic imports. By 2005, China dominated that market, exporting 112 million pounds, or 73%, of the total garlic import market. The same goes for strawberries: China exported just 1.5 million pounds in 2000 and now exports 33 million pounds to the U.S.

"China's record with food imports isn't reassuring," continues BusinessWeek. "Just last month, 107 food imports from China were detained by the Food & Drug Administration at U.S. ports, according to The Washington Post. Among them were dried apples preserved with a cancer-causing chemical and mushrooms laced with illegal pesticides."



UPDATE: It isn't a foodstuff exactly, but cough syrup from China has been blamed in the recent deaths of at least 83 people in Panama.

posted by Michael at July 5, 2007


Not that we shouldn't worry at all, but our government and media have a long history of calling substances "cancer-causing" when the dose shown to be dangerous is far in excess of the range people are being exposed to. "Illegal" pesticides could just reflect the inevitable difficulties in satisfying the letter of a massive bureaucracy, or they could really present substantial dangers, but in any case, using the word "laced" seems totally unfair. When you lace something with something else, you're intending the something else to be consumed and have an additional effect. Again, while their might be some cause for conern, this is pure xenophobic fear-mongering.

Posted by: J. Goard on July 5, 2007 9:34 PM

China is a craphole. If you want to ingest the junk they grow there under God-knows-what conditions (why can't we grow things here?), then go right ahead. I don't eat cereal or other processed food, and I won't eat anything from there if I can help it.

Posted by: BIOH on July 6, 2007 1:14 AM

China offers some reality check for libertarians who idealize the good old days when we did not have so many regulations and so many agencies.

I wonder how many of them, in pursuit of their ideology would be willing to get into a car with Chinese tires, or clean their teeth with Chinese toothpaste, or feed their cat Chinese cat food. Or will sanity prevail and say "not my life, not my family, not my cat".

There is a reason why we have so many regulations and agencies today, and it is not because we fear and hate freedom, it is because we do not like being poisoned.

As for China, I hope that the fact that so many of their products have a bad reputation will spur them to make sure that the only export good stuff.

Posted by: Adriana Pena on July 6, 2007 12:28 PM

But of course China has far less economic freedom than does the U.S., and far more regulation. It's not exactly a libertarian paradise. The best explanation for this stuff is that they don't give a damn what the gwailos eat, so long as the money keeps coming in. The only way to get them to improve their standards is to not buy their stuff until their standards improve. I'm with BIOH...

Posted by: tschafer on July 6, 2007 1:30 PM

J. Goard has the facts right on this I believe. At least that is according to an interview I heard recently of an expert on such matters at Berkeley (which is available of the National Academy of Sciences website). On the other hand, mass hysteria (and fads and fashions and other kinds of mania) are a major part of human history I am gradually coming to realize. Global warming, Freudianism, PCB's, Marxism, the tulip mania -- the list never ends.

Posted by: Luke Lea on July 6, 2007 3:15 PM

tschafer, China has a messy way of offering freedom, too much in certain things, too little in others. For one thing, nothing that can interfere with the monopoly of power of the Party is allowed. On the other hand, anything you do to make yourself rich is good, because it is good for the economy. Not very logical, but then you do not need to be a good logician to stay at the top of hte Party, just a good power player.

In any case they are not more careful with the stuff they make for internal consumption. A few years back there were heart-rending stories about babies starved to death because the formula the parents bought turned up to be chalk dissolved in water.

That looks very much like a "let the buyer beware" Paradise, and as long as they pay their taxes and uphold the Party, they can get away with it.

(It is my contention that to undestand certain societies a study of their ideology is less illumninatig than a study of their history, their traditions, and how the power game has been played through the ages)

Posted by: Adriana on July 6, 2007 5:40 PM

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