More Fallout from the Chinese Food Scandals: Heavy Metals in Our Food?

The Chinese food scandal continues to multiply. There is now little doubt that Chinese food imports have entered the United States food supply in widespread and unexpected ways.

For instance, a former FDA official, William Hubbard, was quoted in the New York Times as saying that most of the candy in supermarket aisles is “likely made with at least one ingredient that originated” in China.

Even organic products are not immune from Chinese ingredients. According to the Organic Consumers Association, Dean Foods, maker of the popular “organic” Silk soymilk, uses Chinese soybeans in their soymilk. With soybeans being such a ubiquitous crop in the United States, who would’ve ever thunk it? I know I didn’t!

As this blog has discussed in previous posts, the American public is in blissful ignorance of how widespread Chinese ingredients are in their food supply. This is because of a little-known loophole in the food labeling laws that does not require country of origin for food ingredients if the product has been processed and has undergone substantial transformation.

Even if Chinese food ingredients have not been tainted outright with poisonous chemicals such as melamine, formaldehyde, etc., the Wall Street Journal has reported a new threat from Chinese food ingredients—namely heavy metals, such as cadmium, mercury and lead contamination.

According to the Journal there is much Chinese farmland in the vicinity of factory smokestacks or mining operations. This farmland has been contaminated by heavy metals that can cause a “sweeping range of health problems from brain damage to cancer.”

This contamination is not just mere conjecture; according to the Journal, some Chinese have recently been poisoned with contaminated rice that “contained 20 times permitted levels of cadmium.” Vegetable crops have been poisoned too.

According to the Journal, heavy use of fertilizers, contaminated with metals and other toxins, is widespread. Despite all of this, in the United States, the FDA does no routine testing of food imports for metals. Given this, we have no way to know how widespread the problem is.

Richard Maybury has summarized the basic laws that allow civilizations to progress. One of these laws is: “Do all that you have agreed to do.”

Food manufactures that take advantage of the loophole in the food labeling requirements and use potentially contaminated ingredients are not doing all that they have agreed to do.

Why? If a consumer buys a product in the supermarket there is an implicit understanding that the product is not contaminated in any way with tainted ingredients or heavy metals.

Let’s leave aside the economics of how regulatory agencies are frequently “captured” by the industries that they are supposed to regulate. Instead, let us focus on the dubious ethics of many food manufacturers who are taking advantage of this loophole in the law.

By not doing all that they have agreed to do—that is, delivering a food product free from contamination–they are undermining the market system. The consumer suffers twice. The first effect is being exposed, unwittingly, to contaminated food. The second effect is more systemic. When consumers can no longer trust the word of the companies that they are buying from, commerce and the economy begin to slow. In that way, we all suffer.


10 Responses to More Fallout from the Chinese Food Scandals: Heavy Metals in Our Food?

  1. abarclay12 says:

    Wait. So should I not be eating my Sweet and Sour Chicken or not?? It’s so delicious I don’t mind getting sick, but I don’t want to die. I can switch back to Taco Bell for awhile if that’s the case.

  2. Barry Brownstein says:

    You don’t really want to know! According to the Boston Globe: “Government authorities are working on a proposal to allow chickens raised, slaughtered, and cooked in China to be sold in the United States, and under current regulations, store labels do not have to indicate the origin of the poultry.”

  3. […] More Fallout from the Chinese Food Scandals: Heavy Metals in Our Food? The Chinese food scandal continues to multiply. There is now little doubt that Chinese food imports have entered the […] […]

  4. Sofia says:

    how shell we give up?

    greetings sofia

  5. Abdur Rahman says:

    Peace Barry,

    An interesting blog you have here, with much useful advice. I know very little of economics, much less of leadership. But, I do know an interesting blog when I see one.

    Just a quick note to say I’ll be stopping by in the future.

    Abdur Rahman

  6. Barry Brownstein says:

    Peace Abdur and thank you for the very kind words.

    Sofia, No need to give up. Eat less processed food and check with the manufacturer of those processed foods that you must eat for the country of origin of their ingredients.

  7. […] And it comes from where? I found an interesting, and frightening, post last night about the Chinese food scandal and how it affects our health. To read about how heavy doses of fertilizers, poisons, toxins, and […]

  8. Barry Brownstein says:

    Activist Mommy,

    Thank you for linking me from your interesting blog. The more consumers know about this issue, the quicker U.S. food manufactures will respond, the quicker Chinese firms will respond. Win-win for all!

  9. […] leading operator of factory farms in the US.  I also read about how they get a portion of their soybeans from China and there is no sure way to know under what conditions those beans were produced or if they are […]

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