Ginger From China Laced With Illegal, Poisonous Pesticides

As if you needed another reason to avoid Chinese foodstuffs, the state of California has put out a call to avoid ginger that’s imported from China. The spicy zing may be coming from illegal pesticides. Of course, at American supermarkets, you don’t always know where your produce is from, unless it has a sticker on it. Which the ginger we bought last week doesn’t.

The California Department of Public Health is warning American consumers not to eat ginger imported from China because it might contain a dangerous pesticide.

The ginger was distributed to Albertson’s and Save Mart stores in Northern California by Christopher Ranch of Gilroy, Public Health Director Mark Horton said in a notice issued Sunday.

Monitors with the state Department of Pesticide Regulation detected the presence of aldicarb sulfoxide, which is not approved for use on ginger in California.

Signs of aldicarb poisoning in humans usually appear within the first hour after exposure, producing flu-like symptoms such as nausea, headache and blurred vision.

Higher levels of poisoning also can cause dizziness, excessive sweating and salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, breathing problems, and muscle stiffness and twitching, health officials said.

Slowly but surely Chinese foodstuffs will kill us all. We really need to start seeing country-of-origin labeling in our supermarkets.

California warns of pesticide-contaminated ginger from China [International Herald-Tribune]
(Photo: JimReeves)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Good luck getting grocery stores to label every single item’s country of origin. Plus, you will need consumers that are intellegent enough to know where all the countries are.


  2. skittlbrau says:

    Whole Foods labels country of origin when you are in the store, and Fresh Direct lets you know when ordering (though I suppose that’s irrelevant if you don’t live in NYC).

    If customers demand to know where their food is from, the stores will eventually voluntarily supply that information.

  3. B says:

    You think this is bad, wait till you hear what they laced Maryanne with.

  4. skittlbrau says:

    @B: actual LOL

  5. Skiffer says:

    “which is not approved for use on ginger in California.”

    Is anything approved for use in California, though?

    Seriously, what is the point of the “this product contains chemicals known to the state of california to cause cancer” signs if they’re on ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING in california?

  6. Have you ever heard of “mislabeling”?

    “Oops, Mr./Ms. Consumer, it appears our product shown in the store/website/catalog has been labeled incorrectly. We are sorry you have purchased something from somewhere that you thought would be bad to buy from…”

  7. hustler says:

    We have an epidemic at this point. Let’s re-evaluate the process, it might save a few lives.

  8. Shouldn’t the consumers thoroughly wash the produce prior to consumption?

    Since this is ginger, shouldn’t the skin be peeled off before tossing it into dishes?

    It is kind of ridiculous that we are expecting every thing we purchase are somehow packed with warning labels for something that is completely common sense.

  9. Skiffer says:

    @Tian: Hence my post – this is california we’re talking about

  10. JuliusJefferson says:


    Ginger is a rhizome, meaning it grows underground. I don’t know for certain, but I imagine that the pesticides needed for this type of plant have a tendency to spread inside of the root.

  11. I’m not sure which I found more surprising: that Tian (from Hanzismatter) reads this blog or that he posted three comments in the span of 20 minutes.

    #1: I agree: labelling would likely be fruitless. It would only feed the paranoia.
    #2: See response to #1.
    #3: I also agree this is very likely over-reacting, especially given that California bans all sorts of things that are approved elsewhere. We also don’t know whether it’s even possible that the pesticides could get into your food in a high enough quantity via the ginger to cause the symptoms described, with or without washing. That said, there is a lot of back and forth out there as to the degree washing vegetables actually helps at all to get the pesticides off. So in other words, joe consumer has no idea, and neither does the government. It’s a win win!

  12. bohemian says:

    I don’t need warning labels, I want country of origin labels. I can then, as an educated consumer decide if I want to buy it or not. Pretty simple.

    The ones recently mandated on seafood make things much easier. Then I can decide if the $2 a pound lower price is worth potential poisoning by buying seafood from China. I’m willing to pay more for seafood that I have some assurance of how it was raised, obtained or handled.

    I think everything should have to have country of origin, including the sub-ingredients. I also think we should have the right to sue the manufacturer for poison or defect in the components they import.

  13. If we are putting so much focus on ginger laced with aldicarb sulfoxide that might cause nausea, diahrrea, dizziness, & excessive sweating, then why some medications with the similar side effects would be allowed to sold at the same grocery stores?



    That photo looks really creepy.

  15. @Tian: Because the medication keeps the insulin under control.

  16. B says:

    @Tian: Cause the medicines have warning labels that warn customers of the potential side effects? Oh right, you think that all labeling is pointless. Never mind.

  17. mopar_man says:

    Having a massive garden in my backyard is looking better and better everyday. It would be nice if the US would step up their inspections or just ban all imports from China since that would help out both the economy and the nations health.

  18. Cowboys_fan says:

    They don’t because it would definately hurt the economy, not help it due to the rather large trade defecit w/ china.

  19. Red_Eye says:

    Very odd;

    That doesn’t list it as being controlled by California…

  20. Red_Eye says:

    LOL but Cali used 229,674 lbs of the stuff to treat 213,475 acres in 2005.. LOL

  21. Higher levels of poisoning also can cause dizziness, excessive sweating and salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, breathing problems, and muscle stiffness and twitching, health officials said.

    Sounds like a weekend spent out getting crunked.

  22. TechnoDestructo says:

    @Tian: Hell, I’d settle for having it labeled on the placard with the price, even if it isn’t on every item.

  23. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @Tian: Wash yes, peel, no. I freeze my ginger and grate it into my cooking while it is still frozen. That way it never goes bad and I can use it without so much waste. Of course, I buy organic whenever possible.

    My philosophy is, do the best you can and you’ll be doing pretty good. If I am cleanand healthy, my immune system and natural resistance will take care of the rest.

    Honestly, some of these woo-woo nutrition practitioners seem to forget we even have such a thing as an ability to heal or own bodies.

  24. skittlbrau says:

    @TechnoDestructo: that’s how the whole foods by me does it. and i’m off to eat my watermelon from texas.

  25. Havok154 says:

    Isn’t water known to cause cancer in California?

  26. rhombopteryx says:

    More info is usually a good thing, but country-of-origin labeling is a misleading 2nd best to actual ingredient and treatment labeling. In this case the problem isn’t its Chinese origin, it’s the poison coating. Country of origin labeling is a xenophobic band-aid to treat the real “agro-industrial complex” problem of sloppy food-raising and food prep. problems that are present whenever food becomes a big enough “industry” that it can evade or bribe oversight. Seriously, drop the demonizing on China and start he demonizing on “greedy bums who taint/degrade/poison food in the name of making an extra buck.” According to the FDA, there are almost as many in the US.

  27. night_sky says:

    “The ginger was distributed to Albertson’s and Save Mart stores in Northern California by Christopher Ranch of Gilroy, Public Health Director Mark Horton said in a notice issued Sunday.”

    Woah, I live only a half hour from Gilroy, and I go to Albertsons (recently converted into Save Mart) for my groceries. Luckily, I never buy ginger, but that’s still unsettling how close to home this is (literally speaking).

  28. night_sky says:

    Also, you guys can say all you want about California’s strict laws, but I for one am happy about it! I bet I’ll even outlive you. ;)

  29. Havok154 says:

    Unless there’s an insane earthquake and California falls into the Pacific.

  30. miburo says:


    Really Doubt that. Pretty much everything in the world causes cancer except Broccoli and Water and Air, so are they going to label all of that? I can eat healthy enough without the need of child safety labels.

  31. wring says:

    aaaaack I bought one of these from our friendly neigborhood Savemart. I was all “omgz ginger for a dollar a pound!” Pssssh had to throw it away! It’s in a netted bag with a label on it that says PRODUCT OF CHINA. thanks Consumerist for saving me from poisonous pesticide!

  32. @Skiffer: “Seriously, what is the point of the “this product contains chemicals known to the state of california to cause cancer” signs if they’re on ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING in california?”

    The feds won’t ban super-useful industrial chemicals that have been shown to cause cancer in lab rats or in humans at certain doses or in some forms but not others or whatever. They demand a really high standard of evidence in banning chemicals, which for a lot of them means 30 years of use to build up a toxin load in general society, and then a whole bunch of deaths that can be DEFINITIVELY linked to the chemical (which, if you ever follow toxic tort cases, is very difficult).

    California takes a more proactive approach, somewhat modeled on the EU’s. (The EU requires companies to prove their chemicals are SAFE before they can use them; in the US, they can use them until they’re proven dangerous in most cases.)

    My garden hose, for example, contains lead. Which I would not have known had it not had California labeling. And which is why your mom and dad always told you not to drink water right from the hose.

  33. Skiffer says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: You didn’t address my point – and if anything, you proved it.

    A blanket warning on practically every product (I’ve even seen the sign in hotel hallways in CA) does no good. It lumps everything together in one category and creates a society of consumers that think a sip from a garden hose containing trace amounts of lead is the same as soaking in a bathtub full of benzene.

    Almost anything can be shown to cause cancer at sufficiently high exposures, which isn’t representative of actual consumer exposure levels. It’s a fact of modern life that you may at some point ingest a molecule or two of a carcinogen, but don’t worry…you’ll be fine!!!

    There’s a lot of superr-paronoid hypochondriacs out there, who could really benefit from applying a bit of reason to the big picture. They’re the type that think that 250 microcuries of radiation spilled into the ocean during a 6.8 earthquake at a 7 unit nuclear site means we should once again ban all nuclear plants, instead of lauding it as a testament to the overall safety of the plant that it really was:

  34. haddock54 says:

    Going into a Rhizhome and looking for poisonous material . . . . .
    But then if its detected then it should be mentioned and announced.