Friday, June 29, 2012

Be wary of beef and broccoli from China

First it was the scandal in 2008 involving milk and infant formula, and other food materials and components, adulterated with melamine.

By November 2008, China reported an estimated 300,000 victims; six infants dying from kidney stones and other kidney damage; and a further 860 babies hospitalized. It was discovered the chemical melamine was added to milk to make it to appear as if having a higher protein content.

By the week of December 22, 2008, 17 people involved in producing, selling, buying and adding melamine in raw milk went on trial. Tian Wenhua, former Sanlu general manager, and three other company executives appeared in court in Shijiazhuang, charged with producing and selling milk contaminated with melamine.

According to Xinhua, Tian pleaded guilty, and told the court she learned about the tainted milk complaints from consumers in mid-May. She then apparently headed a working team to handle the case, but did not report to the Shijiazhuang city government until 2 August.

The Intermediate People's Court in Shijiazhuang sentenced Zhang Yujun and Geng Jinping to death.   They were executed on November 24, 2009.  Tian Wenhua was sentenced  to life in prison, on January 22, 2009.  Zhang was convicted for producing 800 tons of the contaminated powder, Geng for producing and selling toxic food. Geng Jinping managed a milk production center which supplied milk to Sanlu Group and other dairies.

The China Daily reported Geng had knelt on the courtroom floor and begged the victim's families for forgiveness during the trial. The court also sentenced Sanlu deputy general managers Wang Yuliang and Hang Zhiqi to fifteen years and eight years in jail, respectively, and former manager Wu Jusheng to five years.  Several defendants have appealed.

After all that mess, now here comes fake beef.  The culprits are restaurant owners allowing their cooks to slather pork in chemicals to make it look and smell like costlier cuts of beef.  And when Shanghai grad student Wu Heng found out about it, he created an informative food scandal database ‘Throw It Out the Window,’ a homegrown resource that tries to alert the Chinese public  to the many dangers lurking at the supermarket and on the restaurant table.

A few dozen volunteers are now helping Wu maintain the site, which is updated daily with Chinese language news reports about food dangers. It’s become so popular, it crashed from all the traffic on May 3. Wu says 5 million people visited his site over the last month and a half.  And much to Wu's delight, the Chinese government is supportive of his advocacy.

As for the broccoli, there are no chemists, restaurateurs, or cooks involved here.  The entire industrial/manufacturing complex of China appears to be the main culprit.

As we all know by now, China has the worst pollution problems in the world. And it is getting worse as the utterly unchecked rush to industrialization continues. Much of this pollution is linked to coal mining and power generation, but the sources of toxins are myriad .

While air and water pollution are highly visible and overwhelming on an everyday basis, the worst long-term toxic buildup may be lurking quietly underfoot in the soil. Nowhere is the global push to restore degraded land likely to be more important, complex and expensive than in China, where vast swaths of the soil are contaminated by arsenic and heavy metals from mines and factories.

There are dire consequences for food production and human health. On top of having the highest cancer rate in the world China has the highest rate of birth defects. No one disputes that this is the result of pollution. It could be argued that the country is fast on the way to killing itself as it grows.

Literally at the root of this epidemic of poisoning is tainted soil that sends toxins and carcinogens to the dinner table, where people unknowingly eat them. Where does this lead? Will parents tell their children not to eat vegetables? It seems that perhaps for now they should.  And since many food products have a way of getting into our country unchecked, it may be best to avoid the broccoli from China.

The restaurant owners and cooks who slather pork in chemicals to make them appear to be beef may be easier to apprehend and convict, but who will the Chinese government put on trial for their country's massive soil pollution?

Finally, according to Reuters, China's notoriety for food safety issues has been extra-ordinary, with frequent news reports of fake foodstuffs, dairy product recall and even watermelons that explode from absorbing too much fertilizer.

Please note:
I very much appreciate my articles and photos appearing on fellow bloggers' sites, popular broadsheets, and local broadcast news segments, but I would appreciate even more a request for permission first.
Thank you!

No comments:

Post a Comment