WASHINGTON – With hundreds now dead in Panama as a result of poisons in Chinese-made toothpaste, the translation of a shocking Chinese report on food safety on the mainland is not likely to ease growing consumer concerns in the U.S. and Europe over imports from the Communist country.
The report, authored by Zhou Qing and titled “What Kind of God: A Survey of the Current Safety of China’s Food,” a finalist for the 2006 international Ulysses Award, reveals widespread use of toxic chemicals in the preparation of food meant even for domestic consumption.
Pickled vegetables have long been one of the most popular snack foods in China. However, according to Zhou, they now “strike terror in people’s hearts.”
“Although pickled vegetables were first made in Sichuan, there is hardly anyone in the whole country who hasn’t tasted this delicious snack,” he writes. “But now when you visit Sichuan, your friends will say to you: ‘Do you like pickled vegetables?’ There’s a factory in Chengdu that pickles the vegetables in DDVP. In the past, everyone in Sichuan would have pickled vegetables with their meals, but now the managers of some pickled vegetable factories say that, ‘We don’t eat any of these pickles in Sichuan, we sell them to people from other provinces.’”
What is DDVP? It is an acutely toxic, carcinogenic chemical used as a pesticide that can cause pain just through contact with human skin. Inhalation is known to cause convulsions, dizziness, sweating, labored breathing, nausea, unconsciousness and muscle cramps. Diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal cramps are caused by ingestion of even small amounts.
Zhou says he learned the truth about pickled vegetables through a series of secret interviews.
“The most important part of the pickling process is the soaking,” he wrote. “I noticed that the salt used in the pickling was not only whiter than most salt, but the grains were finer. So I asked, ‘How come it’s so white?’ The manager said, ‘This salt is bought on the black market. It’s cheaper by 50 yuan a jin.’ Later, in the yard outside, I saw printed on the bags of salt the terrifying words, ‘Industrial Salt’ and ‘Not for human consumption.’”
Workers at the factory told Zhou they have always used the industrial salt and they knew other factories used it as well.
Later Zhou asked workers about insects he saw crawling around the vats of pickled vegetables. He was told there are always lots of insects on the vegetables until they are treated with chemicals.
He watched the process and took a sample of the chemical to the China Food Import Export Investigation Center – 99 percent strength DDVP.
Zhou also recounted the horrors discovered in the processing of another popular snack food – “Cold Skin.” Workers kneaded the dough with their feet and added urine and saliva to the mixture.
“We are seeing more and more of these famous snacks being destroyed before our eyes: the Guanshengyuan mooncakes filled with rotten ingredients, the DDVP pork legs from Jinhua, the poisonous minced meat from Taiqiang, Pingyao’s toxic beef,” he writes. “Then there was all the news about pork contaminated with ‘lean pork powder’ and poisonous beansprouts.”
Zhou also uncovered salted fish “preserved” with insecticide DDVP.
A survey in China found 82 percent of the public afraid about the safety of the nation’s food. Some 90 percent interviewed had encountered problems of their own.
While Zhou’s report focused on food products meant for domestic consumption in China, the rest of the world is focused on a series of disasters involving Chinese exports – including food.
Following the pet food poisoning that killed or maimed an estimated 39,000 cats and dogs in the U.S., WND embarked on an investigation of other Chinese imports. What it has found to date:
- Foods imported for consumption by American humans may be, in some cases, as dangerous as the pet food. A WND study found the vast majority of imported foods rejected as unfit for human consumption by the Food and Drug Administration are from China. FDA inspectors report tainted food imports intended for American humans are being rejected with increasing frequency because they are filthy, are contaminated with pesticides and tainted with carcinogens, bacteria and banned drugs.
- China, the leading exporter of seafood to the U.S., is raising most of its fish products in water contaminated with raw sewage and compensating by using dangerous drugs and chemicals, many of which are banned by the Food and Drug Administration.
- The deadly contaminant found in Chinese-made toothpaste – diethylene glycol – is a solvent used in antifreeze that killed 107 Americans when it was introduced in an elixir 70 years ago.
- A resurgence in lead-poisoning cases in U.S. children is being linked to Chinese imports – toys, makeup, glazed pottery and other products that contain significant amounts of lead and are being recalled by the CPSC on a regular basis.
- Imports from China were recalled by the CPSC twice as often as products made everywhere else in the world, including the U.S., showed a WND study of 2007 government reports.
- The rising cost of fireworks, almost all of which are made in China, as well as safety concerns and human rights concerns about the conditions of those manufacturing the products resulted in a decrease of Independence Day displays in the U.S. this week.
- WND revealed there are currently no safety standards established between the U.S. and China on food, drugs and other imports. As a result of WND’s series, members of Congress began working on setting new standards.
- WND revealed how China is shipping to the U.S. honey tainted with a potentially life-threatening antibiotic as well as adulterating exports with sugar.
The scandals are having a major impact on Chinese society, too.
“The food security problems have impeded Chinese agri-products and food many times in international trade, and damaged our national credibility and image,” Sun Xianze, director of food safety coordination at the State Food and Drug Administration, said at a weekend seminar.
“The occurrence of food safety incidents or cases not only affects the healthy development of the whole industry, but also may impact upon economic and social stability.”