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China Works To Improve Food Safety Image

(Beyond Pesticides, August 9, 2007) China reports it is cracking down on the use of recently banned pesticides and is taking additional actions in an effort to counter concerns about the country’s food safety. The major exporter has been the subject of frequent reports of contaminated products, including several foods imported by the U.S.

Reuters reports that according to a new poll, U.S. consumers are extremely wary of products made in China, and nearly two-thirds said they would support a boycott of Chinese goods. In reaction to the potential loss of export markets and the upcoming Beijing Olympics, China says it will spend more than $1 billion improving food and drug safety over the next three years.

The Chinese government will specifically launch a campaign to crack down on the use of banned pesticides that are still being manufactured and remain in use. The campaign is in response to news reports that “a dozen or so” pesticide producers were still making highly poisonous pesticides such as methylamine and phosphamidon. Prior to the recent ban, 1,500 pesticide manufacturers, approximately half of the industry, produced the chemicals.

However, pesticides that are still approved for use in China are also raising concerns as they are typically overused. Official data reveals China sprays 1.45 million tons of pesticides annually, almost two times more than the Chinese government recommends, according to China Daily.

The overuse of pesticides in the country has been problematic for Chinese and U.S. consumers alike. The most recent concern over food security involves tons of ginger exported from China, which supplies nearly half of U.S. ginger imports and is a major supplier of ginger on the world market. Since the state of California recently discovered levels of aldicarb sulfoxide that are deemed unacceptable by the government, U.S. health officials are now working to determine how the ginger made it into the country and how widely it has been distributed.

According to the Oakland Tribune, this not the first time that contaminated Chinese ginger has been a problem. In recent months, Seattle port inspectors turned away shipments of Chinese ginger that contained unacceptable levels of pesticides, and Japanese authorities mistakenly allowed 25 tons of contaminated ginger into their country.

Pesticide misuse on ginger is only one example of contaminated products from China. For example, one recent study also documents seafood contamination – scientists have found that seafood products from southern China contain high concentrations of DDT and hexachlorocylohexane (HCH).

In response, China’s State Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman, Yan Jiangying says her department will work throughout China to educate the public about pesticide use, including the estimated 60 percent of the 1.3 billion population that resides in rural agricultural areas.

Sources: China Daily, Oakland Tribune, Reuters

TAKE ACTION: Buy local and organic whenever possible. While this is not always the cheapest source of food, it is a practice that supports the local economy, ensures local food production and protects you and your loved ones from pesticides. If you are not sure where to find local, organic food, try the Local Harvest website: www.localharvest.org.


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