Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Tell me why we trust anything we buy from China?

China’s poor treated to fake rice made from plastic:
Various reports in Singapore media have said that Chinese companies are mass producing fake rice made, in part, out of plastic, according to one online publication Very Vietnam.

The "rice" is made by mixing potatoes, sweet potatoes and plastic. The potatoes are first formed into the shape of rice grains. Industrial synthetic resins are then added to the mix. The rice reportedly stays hard even after being cooked.

The Korean-language Weekly Hong Kong reported that the fake rice is being sold in the Chinese town of Taiyuan, in Shaanxi province.

"A Chinese Restaurant Association official said that eating three bowls of this fake rice would be like eating one plastic bag. Due to the seriousness of the matter, he added that there would be an investigation of factories alleged to be producing the rice," Very Vietnam noted.

Putting poisons and toxic chemicals into food.
(Reuters) - Pulverized lime, an inedible ingredient, has been added to bleaching agents widely used in flour production in China, Chinese media said.
China has been in the spotlight in recent years over food-safety scandals, including melamine-tainted milk that sickened thousands of babies in 2008, which have damaged the reputation of the country's food exports.

Bleaching agents, usually made from cornstarch, are added to flour to shorten the time needed for whitening. Substituting cheaper and heavier lime for cornstarch cuts the cost of producing the bleaching agent, which is sold by weight.

Consumption of Pulverized lime can lead to gradual damage to the lungs and eventually the entire respiratory system.
I'll update this list:

Benjamin A Shobert writes for Asia Times:
We have become so desensitized to defective products originating in China that this week's announcement from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission about finding dangerous levels of cadmium in children's toys seemed oddly expected and has thus far ruffled few feathers.

Yet, while this particular issue may not be significant enough to upend the trade relationship between the US and China, or of such severity that it is likely to be the cause of a whole new set of import restrictions, it does add more weight to an increasing wariness and frustration with Chinese-made products on the part of American consumers.

The cumulative effect of these quality problems has the potential not only to impact the export-sensitive economy of China, but to create a systemic problem for what it means to have products of any variety sourced in China, an issue that could cause problems for an untold number of American and European consumer-product companies, as well as the retailers they serve.

In a series of television ads that started late last year with limited runs on CNN Asia, and now spreading to various media outlets around the world, Beijing seems to have acknowledged these fears, with a new ad program defending what it means to be "Made in China". The new ads go by the tag line "Made in China, Made with the World".
I mentioned this back in December but it's worth keeping track of their efforts. I believe this is a classic example of putting lipstick on a pig: don't make vigorous efforts to change the mindset of the Chinese producers, just take out ads to hide the problems.
China turns to Madison Avenue for an image makeover
How about fixing your product safety first? How about actually removing toxins and pollution from your food? How about realizing if you are going to return capitalism to the pre-FDA days of The Jungle, customers will justifiably shun your products.

Educate the Chinese people that meeting quota does not mean going cheap, being indifferent to consequences. It does mean respecting consumers, human life.

Buying a bunch of ads won't do anything to change this list I've been keeping:
The Chinese are insulted we do not want to buy their chickens for our markets? Ignoring the whole thing about Avian (bird) flu, can we just look back for a moment and ponder just why we have cold feet about their food....

My post from November 2008:
Chinese melamine and other toxins have been in our food for years
The rampant use of chemical additives in animal feed can be traced to 1999. According to Gao Yinxiang, the research and development of high-protein feed additives was a hot field among scientists about 10 years ago due to shortage of animal fodder in the country at the time.

From that time, it's hard to define the exact role that scientists played in the evolution of the melamine scandal. Yet scientists certainly contributed to it by developing unsafe protein alternatives. Many Chinese are now calling on scientists to examine their conscience before making profits at the expense of public safety.

The CAS may not have invented melamine additives. However, it still owes the public an explanation as to why it developed - and continues to develop - feed supplements that food experts say are dangerous for human health.

The melamine saga and the reactions from relevant parties, including scientists, the government and the related companies, shows a system that continues to shirk responsibility rather than taking efforts to avoid similar incidents happening again.

Without effective supervision and sound accountability, China's food scares are far from over.
It's not just animal feed. Earlier quote in the article: (my bold)
But scientists say warnings signs were apparent as early as last year when melamine in Chinese-made pet food killed house pets across the United States.

"You can't separate the food supplies of animals, pets and people," Marion Nestle, a public health professor at New York University and author of the recent book Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine, told the Washington Post. "That's an enormous warning sign that if something wasn't done immediately to clean up the food safety problem, this would leak into the human food supply."

China has used the Kjeldahl Nitrogen Determination Method to measure protein level in food, meaning the content of protein is determined by the level of nitrogen. It is an open secret in China that melamine is added to milk and animal feed to artificially boost nitrogen levels. It was not until recently, after the exposure of the tainted-milk scandal, that China make it compulsory to test the content of melamine in foodstuffs.
So what does long exposure to melamine do to humans? Kidney stones? Autism? Alzheimer's? What exactly have the Chinese been putting in its products, making our farm animals eat, making us eat?

And why should we trust anything the Chinese government promises us? They get caught repeatedly after vowing not to contaminate their products.

Just a reminder:

China saying no to inspections and destroying evidence.

Rat poison.

Wheat, corn, and rice gluten.

Pesticide-laden pea pods, drug-laced catfish, filthy plums and crawfish contaminated with salmonella. Dried apples preserved with a cancer-causing chemical. Scallops and sardines coated with putrefying bacteria. Mushrooms laced with illegal pesticides.

Excessive antibiotic and pesticide use.

What melamine is.

Poisoned chickens.

Poisoned farm fish

The toothpaste with diethylene glycol, a toxic chemical used in engine coolants.


Highly toxic puffer fish sold as monk fish.

Fake blood protein.

Lead in toys: Thomas the Tank Engine, baby bibs, cub scout badges, wooden blocks.

Waste water forced into pigs going to market

Poisoned water.

Poisoned medicinal syrup.

750,000 people in China are dying prematurely every year due to high levels of air pollution and poor water quality.

Formaldehyde in candy, in baby clothing

Wild mice used for meat.

Defective tires.

Use of illegal drift nets.

Coma-inducing date rape drug in toys.

Asbestos in toys.

Fake kosher food.

Insecticide-tainted dumplings.

More than 40 percent of drinking water in rural China is unfit for drinking.

Babies being poisoned by milk and milk powder.

Poisoned chocolate

Tom Legg of Daai Tou Laam:
But don't expect the Chinese government to really get serious about product safety. How many product safety scares have there been in the last few years? From fake baby formula to tainted fish to fake soy sauce to tainted bean curd sheet to a bridge that collapsed because there was no steel reinforcing-bar used.

If the CCP wants to product their people from eating hormone-laden pork, then that is their prerogative. If they instead want to ban products from the US as a tit-for-tat over negative press coverage of Chinese product safety issues, it shows the Chinese government is childish and easily manipulated by foreign powers. Like a recalled Chinese toy, press the right buttons and watch the CCP leaders dance. Watch the CCP spokesperson trotted out to blame it all on the US media. (This of course is the same lap dog US media that willingly served up the story on Mattel as model Chinese operator days before the first toy recall.)

Did you really expect the CCP to clean up their own house? The folks who trashed Premier Wen's Green GDP? The folks whose tactics to combat corruption hearken back to the Ming Dynasty with the substitution of video games for the study of Confucian classics? We aren't talking about leaders with a great ability to look in the mirror and see the problems staring back at themselves.

But to really clean house would come at too steep a price for many cadres and their cronies. So the CCP's option is to keep letting Chinese die at home and face negative press abroad and hope that enough exports keep getting out to keep the currency flow positive and enough skim from IPOs and LCs to keep investment bankers like former Goldman Sachs man US Treasury Secretary Paulson happy, so that their grip on power in Beijing is kept firm.
Trader Joe's is taking some of the Chinese food products off its shelves.

And finally... after how many years of complaints, and poisonings and deaths, the FDA acts:

Federal health officials on Thursday ordered dozens of imported foods from China held at the border as possible health risks. Most are ethnic treats, including snacks, drinks and chocolates.

It's unusual for the Food and Drug Administration to put such a broad hold on goods from an entire country, not just a few rogue manufacturers. The order, which covers products made with milk, is a precaution to keep out foods contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine, which can cause serious kidney problems.

crossposted at American Street
A few months later I posted this, December 2008:
Nope. Chinese businesses haven't learned yet.

Will they stop when we stop buying their products?
Hong Kong food safety authorities said late Tuesday that for the fourth time in less than two months they had found a batch of Chinese eggs contaminated with illegal levels of melamine, the industrial chemical that has sickened hundreds of thousands of children. The agency said the tainted eggs were imported from a company based in Jilin Province in northern China and were being sold to bakeries in Hong Kong.
You'd think the government would take massive steps to fix this problem immediately, right? Right?

Yet again in December of 2008:
How many babies need to die or become ill before China finally stops Putting melamine into our food?

Brussels, Belgium (AHN) - Soy-based imports from China intended for babies and young children will no longer be allowed throughout the 27-member European Union. The European Commission banned on Wednesday the entry of all foods that are soy-based after the discovery of melamine in a soybean meal in China.

Aside from the prohibition, the EC also required laboratory testing for all soy-related foods and shipments or baking powder. The tested food must contain less than 2.5 milligrams of melamine per kilogram to be allowed entry into the EU. The ban is expected to be in force by the end of this week.

And it's not just China who seems to be indifferent to causing death:
At least 34 babies have died in Nigeria after being administered with a locally made teething mixture.

Six more child deaths were recorded on Wednesday, on top of 28 reported last month in three locations after being given "My Pikin", a teething syrup contaminated with diethylene glycol, which is blamed for causing kidney failure.
And in January of 2009:
That certain piquant flavor...Is in everything:

Melamine-contaminated pet food killed thousands of dogs and cats in the United States two years ago. Melamine-contaminated infant formula recently killed six babies in China, and made hundreds of thousands of children there ill.

Now melamine has been found in some chocolate, cookies and infant formula in the U.S.!

Yet our own Food and Drug Administration says it’s OK to have a certain amount of the chemical in infant formula, even though the agency previously said it couldn’t determine a safe level for melamine. What are we supposed to believe?

Tell Congress you’re fed up with the FDA’s lax regulation of our food and drug supply.Strong leadership, more safety testing, better inspection of imports, and tough enforcement are needed to make sure no American families suffer the tragic consequences of eating contaminated food.

Now that we have an administration that hears us, sign the petition.
Are they thinking we will ignore this and eat chickens raised or processed in China? Are they kidding? There is utterly NO LEARNING CURVE illustrated here AT ALL.

Besides, I'm sure I've had my quota of melamine for life, thanks.

Update: Don't forget about the toxic drywall.
Add to this list as of 12/26/2009 flammable Christmas lights and extension cords.

Update January 12th, 2010: cadmium in children's jewelry.
More from the article on cadmium in children's jewelry:
U.S. goes after cadmium in children's jewelry
-- Federal and state watchdogs opened a new front Monday in the campaign to keep poisons out of Chinese imports, warning Asian manufacturers not to substitute other toxins for lead in children's jewelry and beginning an inquiry into cadmium found in products around the United States.

Congress clamped down on lead in those products in 2008, but cadmium is even more harmful.

Cadmium, which is known to cause cancer, is a soft metal that occurs naturally in soil. It's used as half of rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries, but also in pigments, electroplating and plastic.

Cadmium is attractive to Chinese manufacturers because it is cheap and easy to work with. But, like lead, it can hinder brain development in the very young, recent research shows.
Updating: 2/6/10 Check out the bolded print and realize how widespread this is:
A Chinese man was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in a U.S. prison this week for trafficking in counterfeit Cisco Systems gear.
Li was arrested by FBI agents on Jan. 9, 2009, in Las Vegas -- while the annual Consumer Electronics Show was taking place there. He was sentenced on Monday in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, after pleading guilty to one count of trafficking in counterfeit goods last September.

The FBI has been cracking down on fake Cisco routers since 2005. Two years ago, it claimed to have seized more than US$78 million worth of counterfeit equipment in more than 400 seizures. Counterfeit gear often contains lower-performing components that do not work as advertised. In recent years, some security experts have begun to see counterfeiting as a growing threat to the nation's network infrastructure.
It's not that this man is doing anything different than lots of other Chinese companies ... it's that he got caught. 400 HUNDRED seizures? The Chinese government has to really work hard to be that blind ....

Update 2/8/10: Misuse of antibiotics threaten food chain and world health:
Chinese doctors routinely hand out multiple doses of antibiotics for simple maladies like the sore throats and the country's farmers excessive dependence on the drugs has tainted the food chain. Studies in China show a "frightening" increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as staphylococcus aureus bacteria, also know as MRSA . There are warnings that new strains of antibiotic-resistant bugs will spread quickly through international air travel and internation food sourcing.
And now 4/10: Pulverized lime to bleach flour.

How nice. And how totally ... predictable.


Steve Bates said...

I buy almost all of my rice from India. Tilda is a good brand. They haven't sold me a bag of plastic yet... just the genuine Basmati. My favorite Indian-American family (i.e., all from India; all now American citizens) won't buy any other rice. If you have a local grocer with an international orientation, they probably carry it (e.g., Fiesta in Houston). If you have an Indo-Pak grocer, even better... you can buy bags of good rice that take two people to carry to and from the car!

ellroon said...

I buy basmati rice from Trader Joe's, a company that is trying to keep clear of Chinese products. It's just amazing how much of what we buy now has China's fingerprints all over it...

Ole Phat Stu said...

Next up : Soylent Green?

ellroon said...

You laugh, but yes: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2005/sep/13/medicineandhealth.china

Ole Phat Stu said...

Wow, I didn't know that,Ellroon. Thanks for the heads-up!

ellroon said...

China has the essence of capitalism down: the dollar is everything, screw the customer. And: he with the most toys wins.

We need to regard everything China sells with suspicion...