There has got to be a reason, because from all the, how should I put it, less-than-appetizing (read: disgusting) reports coming out it seems like an immediate ban is necessary. But it's not happening for some reason and we only get trickles of information concerning the various issues that are arising.
Sweden's National Food Administration recently announced that since the beginning of 2007 (up until May) 138 cases within the EU have come out where Chinese foodstuffs have been unfit for consumption. 138 cases. This includes basics such as banned colouring, antibiotics, preservatives and pesticides. Cases of illegally imported, unclean or foul-smelling food, as well as products with high levels of heavy metals, poisonous mould and dioxins have also been reported. In the US, it's much more prevalent. The month of April alone showed 107 detained food imports due to a variety of reasons including: dried apples preserved with a cancer-causing chemical, frozen catfish laden with banned antibiotics, scallops and sardines coated with putrefying bacteria and mushrooms laced with illegal pesticides. Appetizing, no?
Today reports have surfaced that a village in Beijing specializing in pig sales has just been caught force-feeding wastewater to pigs through plastic pipes shoved down the pigs' throat, pumping it full of wastewater to boost their weight before slaughter. How is this getting reported without the immediate call for banning of all foodstuffs? Because with all the reports coming out, what will be the last straw? It seemed that with the death of our beloved pets due to tainted pet food, the ban would begin. But it hasn't. The US Food & Drug Administration is reporting that over 900,000 tainted toothpaste tubes are circulating throughout the US today. Toothpaste that has substituted glycerin (a sweetner) for diethylene glycol, a compound commonly found in antifreeze. What does the FDA say about this? They recommend you, "throw away toothpaste labeled as made in China". Well thanks, I might do just that, but can you please make it so that I don't have to be a certified food engineer to buy things from the super market?
The reason behind such atrocities is obvious, of course. It's cheaper to buy food from China than it is to buy it locally and companies now rely on this cost-cutting method to boost profits. Just as with electronics and common household items, China's monopoly on manufacturing is extending to food. But food is a much trickier beast than a DVD player, isn't it? If my DVD player breaks I can blame China's lax quality assurance and I might be out a few bucks, but I'm not going to die. So now what? Do we keep waiting for China's quality to measure up or do we rely on the much-lobbied FDA to make it so that this stuff never gets to our homes in the first place? Personally, I'm not banking on either. As a consumer, I'm making a choice. I don't care if garlic is going to cost me $5 per pound versus $0.50 per pound, I'd rather pay extra than learn later I'm eating a wastewater-ed, antifreeze-laden, antibiotic-laced, bacteria-filled dinner.
UPDATE: China executed their former head of food & drug safety, Zheng Xiaoyu on July 10th after being convicted of taking bribes to approve an antibiotic that resulted in 10 deaths. The government chose this harsh sentence as a way of sending a message to their commitment in improving their poor food safety record. You can read more here.
Sweden's The Local
The Washington Post