Shoppers find China difficult to avoid
DIRK LAMMERS; The Associated Press
Published: July 1st, 2007 01:00 AM
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Poisoned pet food. Seafood laced with potentially dangerous antibiotics. Toothpaste tainted with an ingredient in antifreeze. Tires missing a key safety component.
U.S. shoppers might be forgiven if they are becoming leery of Chinese-made goods and are trying to fill their shopping carts with products free of ingredients from that country.
The trouble is, that might be almost impossible.
Chinese exports have been in the spotlight since the deaths of dogs and cats in North America attributed to tainted Chinese wheat gluten, followed by last week’s recall of Chinese-made radial tires and an alert Thursday by the Food and Drug Administration, warning about contaminated Chinese seafood.
My family hit some stores to see how hard it would be for the average consumer to avoid the “Made in China” label – even for just a week.
The labels on most food products we looked at were of little help.
The 2002 Farm Bill passed by Congress mandated country-of-origin labeling for seafood, beef, lamb, pork, fish, fruits, vegetables and peanuts, but the Bush administration has delayed its implementation for everything except seafood until October 2008.
Some fruits and vegetables sported voluntary stickers, but shoppers should consider the calendar when shopping for produce, as stores get a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables from Central and South America during winter months.
None of the sweets in the candy aisle said “Made in China,” but most are likely made with at least one ingredient that originated there, said William Hubbard, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration official.
Candy wrappers typically list just the U.S. distributor of the products, so label readers can’t determine the origin of the vanillin found in a Nestle Crunch bar, the carageenan in a Baby Ruth or the gum arabic in a pack of Mentos.
Those three ingredients, and numerous other flavoring and preservative additives, commonly come from Chinese companies, Hubbard said.
“The cocoa might come from another country, and the sugar might be American, so you’re not going to get a country of origin on that product,” Hubbard said.
Companies in China produce about 80 percent of the world’s wheat gluten, common in most breads, cakes and cookies, and 80 percent of its sorbic acid, a preservative used in just about everything, he said.
We found a bit of irony in the ethnic food section, where a box of Golden Bowl fortune cookies and a bag of Kokuho Rose Rice brand sushi rice both sported “Product of USA” labels.