Chinese Poison Train Declared Unstoppable: Next Stop, You!

Poison toothpaste, killer cough-syrup, and tainted pet food are the tip of the disgusting iceberg of yuck heading our way from China. Over the past four months, the FDA has rejected 298 shipments from China that included “filthy” fruits, cancer-causing shrimp, and “poisonous” swordfish.

Rejected items often reappear at U.S. ports several times; importers gamble that the FDA, which only inspects 1% of regulated imports, won’t catch them in the act. Their slip-ups are detailed in stomach-wrenching refusal reports filed by the FDA.

Our puny food safety laws are no match for the wiles of Chinese importers. Federal law only allows the import of meat from foreign factories that have been certified to match domestic safety standards. Since no Chinese factories are currently certified, crafty Chinese meat smugglers simply send us their meat labeled as something else.

Some were shipped in crates labeled “dried lily flower,” “prune slices” and “vegetables,” according to news reports. It is unclear how much of the illegal meat slipped in undetected.

The problem is about to get worse as the Chinese gear up to legally export poultry that, if not properly processed, could be infected with salmonella and everyone’s favorite side dish, bird flu…

(Photo: darinmarshall)

Last year the USDA began to legalize the import of Chinese meat. Chickens can now be grown in the U.S., slaughtered in the U.S., shipped to China for “processing,” and then shipped back to the U.S. for human consumption. The rule was approved last April, coincidentally, the day before Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived on a state visit to Washington.

That rule is just the first step towards China’s true aspiration: to grow, kill, and ship homegrown Chinese chickens to the U.S. If we don’t open our gullets wide to their poultry, they won’t lift their four-year-old ban on U.S. beef. More frightening:

…permission for China to sell poultry to the United States is moving ahead because recent USDA audits found China’s poultry slaughterhouses to be equivalent to those here.

Tony Corbo, a lobbyist for Food and Water Watch, a Washington advocacy group, said that finding — which is not subject to outside review — is unbelievable, given repeated findings of unsanitary conditions at China’s chicken slaughterhouses. Corbo said he has seen some of those audits. “Everyone who has seen them was grossed out,” he said.

There is little we can do; economic realities make Americans subjects of China’s lax food safety regime.

China controls 80 percent of the world’s production of ascorbic acid, for example, a valuable preservative that is ubiquitous in processed and other foods. Only one producer remains in the United States, Hubbard said.

“That’s true of a lot of ingredients,” he said, including the wheat gluten that was initially thought to be the cause of the pet deaths. Virtually none of it is made in the United States, because the Chinese sell it for less than it would cost U.S. manufacturers to make it.

The full article is well worth a read, as are the FDA refusal reports – but only after you’ve eaten. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

Tainted Chinese Imports Common [Washington Post]
Refusal Actions by FDA as Recorded in Operational and Administrative System for Import Support for China (Mainland) [FDA]