pork-knife-blueglowIn China that’s what authorities told their people when photos surfaced showing Chinese pork glowing a spooky, iridescent blue after kitchen lights were switched off. No problem said the authorities. Just a little contamination by phosphorescent bacteria. Just make sure the pork is well cooked and it’s perfectly safe to eat.

Think we’re safe and immune here in the U.S. from tidbits like that and all the other tainted food scandals popping up around China lately? Starting in 2008 when 6 babies died and 300,000 were sickened by milk contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine, these scandals have included arsenic-laced soy sauce, plaster tofu, mushrooms treated with fluorescent bleach; bean sprouts tainted with sodium nitrite, urea, animal antibiotics and a plant hormone called 6-benzyladenine, fake wine, phony eggs and imitation fish. Recent tests of food made from rice flour showed one third of the samples contained levels of aluminum above national standards. And let us not forget last week’s killer  photos of “sewer oil” that cooks retrieved from drains beneath restaurants for the purpose of recycling — cooking food over and over — YIKES — AGAIN.

These stories are not as distant from our shores as you may think. Canned Chinese foods have lined dollar store shelves for years, but China has also made solid inroads in higher end markets. After Mexico, Canada and Chile, China is now our fourth largest supplier of fruits and vegetables. I was even more surprised to discover China now dominates the U.S, apple juice market. Apple juice concentrate produced in China and reconstituted in the states accounts for 60% of America’s apple juice supply in top brands such as Motts and Apple and Eve.

My own experience with Chinese food happened before their food scandals hit the media. Purchasing a can of “Made in China” mangos from the dollar store, I thought how bad could it be? Pre. . .tty bad. The unpleasant chemical taste had nothing to do with any mango I’ve ever met and the texture was disturbingly mushy. Thinking I might have simply come across a bad batch, I then sampled some strawberries canned in China. Again the chemical assault, wipeout of any fruit flavor and creepy, disintegrating texture.

As far as I know only one store in America — Trader Joe’s — has listened to their customer’s concerns, drawn the line and refused to sell any food products from China.  Apparently their suppliers are also required to refrain from using Chinese ingredients in foods they produce for Trader Joe’s.

One of the most disturbing aspects of China’s food scandals is their repetition. Even though two milk company executives were executed for juicing up their milk with protein pretender melamine, it didn’t stop others in the food industry from later doing EXACTLY the same thing again and just last week AGAIN when 26 tons of melamine-tainted powdered milk about to be churned into ice cream were confiscated by the government.

As yet China has no central regulation agency for their food industry. Oversight is haphazard with under-funded, ill-trained food safety regulators operating with unclear regulations fraught with legal loopholes.  Most of them, says a food safety expert with the World Health Organization, haven’t a clue about major food-borne diseases or contaminants in the food process.

Odd how the Chinese government is so super organized and efficient at crushing dissent. Crackerjacks at building a “great firewall” of censorship and masters at silencing activists for the crime of believing in freedom and fairness for all, this same government can’t insure the food their people eat won’t harm them.

What’s your take on food products from China?

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