Europe Worries about Health Hazards of Cheap Food from China - SPIEGEL ONLINE
The diversity of products China has to offer also seems to be unlimited. For example, the country has become the world's largest exporter of honey. It is also starting to produce more and more finished products, a market with even bigger profit margins than food commodities. A significant portion of the world's salmon haul is processed in China, into smoked salmon, for example. The country famous for Peking Duck is now making frozen pizzas for the global market -- at a fifth of German prices.
Farmers Who Don't Eat Their Own Food
The biggest problem with Chinese food products is the local production environment, which includes the excessive use of toxic pesticides for crops and of antibiotics for animals, sometimes coupled with a complete lack of scruples. In 2008, some 300,000 infants in China were harmed by milk and baby formula products adulterated with the chemical melamine. Chinese producers had added the substance, which is especially harmful to the kidneys, to powdered milk.
Chinese producers have also sold peas dyed green, which lost their color when cooked, fake pigs' ears and cabbage containing carcinogenic formaldehyde. Then there was the cooking oil that was captured in restaurant drains, reprocessed, rebottled and resold. ...
Animal products are the most questionable, says Zhou Li, a lecturer at Beijing's Renmin University who studies food safety. Meat is more profitable than vegetables, which only increases the incentive to maximize profits.
Zhou notes that farmers used to eat the same foods they sold. But now that they are aware of the harmful effects of pesticides, fertilizers, hormones and antibiotics, they still produce a portion of their farm products for the market and a portion for their own families. The only difference is that the food for their families is produced using traditional methods. In fact, many wealthy Chinese have bought their own farms so as not to be dependent on what's available in supermarkets. There are also reports of special plots of land used to produce food exclusively for senior government officials...
By last Friday, 262 reports on Chinese products had been received in Brussels for 2012 alone. They included noodles infested with maggots, shrimp contaminated with antibiotics, foul-smelling peanuts and candied fruit with an excessively high sulfur content .
Ulrich Nöhle is very familiar with food production in China. A professor of food chemistry, Nöhle has worked for many years as an independent auditor in China, where he inspects products for quality on behalf of German retailers. He says that "you get what you order" from China, explaining that German retailers have to "specify how the product is to be grown or what standards are required to label a product as organic, for example." But, he adds, those who order products from China that are the cheapest possible and have not been inspected have only themselves to blame when they don't receive the goods they expected.
In one case, Nöhle discovered that sweeteners ordered in China by German customers had a strong odor of solvents. But when he spoke to the Chinese producers about it, they said: "It always smells like that." Nöhle had to have the production facilities reorganized until the product was up to German standards.
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