Europe Screens Tainted Chinese Food

CDT previously reported on the shift in anxieties among Chinese people, including food safety. With recent food scandals, such as the testing of golden rice on Chinese children, China sought to increase their food safety regulations. Despite China’s efforts, China Daily reports shoppers are still consumed with concerns over food safety:

Food safety is a top concern for Chinese shoppers, especially regarding such produce as vegetables, meat, seafood, grain, cooking oils and dairy goods, according to a report from Ipsos.

“Food safety incidents that have occurred in China attracted a lot of attention but the general public still has a very limited knowledge base on the issue. In the United States and European countries, there have been fully fledged food manufacturing practice and response measures toward safety issues,” said Jennifer Tsai, managing director of Innovation and Forecasting at Ipsos Marketing in Greater China.

More than 80 percent of the Chinese shoppers interviewed by Ipsos said they were eager to see the publication of food testing results, plus more transparency in this regard, besides the normal measures taken by competent bodies. More than 70percent of the public hoped that random inspections will be conducted and test results published.

“Food companies have a broad range of measures that can betaken to inform customers, such as clearer logos, product composition and information regarding possible allergies. If possible, such companies could allow visits to be made by members of the public to their plants and post videos online for the public to watch. At present, the transparency issue for domestic companies is still poor.”

Concerns over the safety of Chinese food products is not limited to China. Der Spiegel reports on the health hazards of food from China amid a recent norovirus outbreak in Germany:

China, which already sews together our clothes, assembles our smartphones and makes our children’s toys, is now becoming an important food supplier for Germany. Since China, as a low-wage country, doesn’t exactly have a good reputation among consumers, the food industry usually doesn’t mention the origin of the products it sells. Many Germans only realized how much of the food on their plates is harvested and produced in China when thousands of schoolchildren in eastern Germany were afflicted with diarrhea and vomiting two weeks ago in anepidemic thought to have been triggered by Chinese strawberries contaminated with norovirus.

The biggest problem with Chinese food products is the local production environment, which includes the excessive use of toxic pesticides for crops and of antibiotics for animals, sometimes coupled with a complete lack of scruples. In 2008, some 300,000 infants in China were harmed by milk and baby formula products adulterated with the chemical melamine. Chinese producers had added the substance, which is especially harmful to the kidneys, to powdered milk.

Chinese producers have also sold peas dyed green, which lost their color when cooked, fake pigs’ ears and cabbage containing carcinogenic formaldehyde. Then there was the cooking oil that was captured in restaurant drains, reprocessed, rebottled and resold. The government newspaper China Daily has even reported on fake eggs.

Aside from contaminated food in Germany, other contaminates have been found in Chinese food products that were exported to Denmark, Italy, and Spain, according to The New York Times:

 Cypriot inspectors found arsenic in the frozen calamari. The Italians discovered maggots in the pasta. There were glass chips in the pumpkin seeds bound for Denmark, and Spanish regulators blocked a shipment of frozen duck meat because of forged papers. It has been a rough year for Chinese food exports to Europe.

Wu Heng, a graduate student in history in Shanghai, once thought food safety was an issue for other people, something that existed mostly in the media or through gossip. He said he felt “like a frog in warm water,” unconcerned about the rising temperature, unaware of the growing danger.

But a story about cancer-causing additives being added to meat got his attention in April of last year, and he and some friends started a Web site that began charting reports of food scandals nationwide.

The name of the site is a mouthful — Zhichuchuangwai, which means “throw it out the window.” They name comes from the story of President Theodore Roosevelt having thrown his breakfast sausage out a window after reading “The Jungle,” Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel that exposed the meatpacking industry in Chicago.

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