Chinese imports

I’m not much given to alarmism, but I suspect that many of us had to take notice of the recent issues with questionable Chinese imports.

  • Pet Food Recall: March 2007, Menu Foods issued a pet food recall which revealed that most of the big pet food brands were made Menu Foods, a Canadian company, but that the recalled pet food had caused kidney failure in a number of animals due to the inclusion of melamine, a chemical used as a fertilizer and in plastics manufacture, from China. I wrote about the Pet Food Recall at; see also FDA website.

    Added 02/06/08: 3 Companies Indicted in Pet Food Case
    "Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co., Suzhou Textiles, Silk, Light Industrial Products, Arts and Crafts I/E Co., and Las Vegas-based Chemnutra Inc. were charged in two separate but related indictments. The U.S. attorney’s office in Kansas City said the tainted food led to the death and serious illness of pets in the U.S. last year."

  • Toothpaste Recall: On June 8, 2007, the FDA issued a warning to "avoid using any toothpaste labeled as made in China because we have found levels as high as 3-4% of a poisonous chemical, diethylene glycol (DEG), in Chinese toothpaste" — where "Diethylene glycol (DEG), also known as "diglycol" is a poisonous chemical used in antifreeze and as a solvent. It does not belong in toothpaste even at small concentrations." See New York Times: From China to Panama, a Trail of Poisoned Medicine (note the time frame of the quote below):

Panama is the most recent victim. Last year, government officials there unwittingly mixed diethylene glycol into 260,000 bottles of cold medicine — with devastating results. Families have reported 365 deaths from the poison, 100 of which have been confirmed so far. …

Panama’s death toll leads directly to Chinese companies that made and exported the poison as 99.5 percent pure glycerin.

What’s at least as alarming as the June 2007 discovery of diethylene glycol in toothpaste from China — only a year after the same ingredient (again from Chinese companies and represented as glycerin) killed hundreds of people in Panama — is this from the NYT article:

Forty-six barrels of the toxic syrup arrived via a poison pipeline stretching halfway around the world. Through shipping records and interviews with government officials, The New York Times traced this pipeline from the Panamanian port of Colón, back through trading companies in Barcelona, Spain, and Beijing, to its beginning near the Yangtze Delta in a place local people call "chemical country."

The counterfeit glycerin passed through three trading companies on three continents, yet not one of them tested the syrup to confirm what was on the label. Along the way, a certificate falsely attesting to the purity of the shipment was repeatedly altered, eliminating the name of the manufacturer and previous owner. As a result, traders bought the syrup without knowing where it came from, or who made it. With this information, the traders might have discovered — as The Times did — that the manufacturer was not certified to make pharmaceutical ingredients.

Indeed. See also the New York Times’ Walt Bogdanich’s F.D.A. Tracked Poisoned Drugs, but Trail Went Cold in China:

After a drug ingredient from China killed dozens of Haitian children a decade ago, a senior American health official sent a cable to her investigators: find out who made the poisonous ingredient and why a state-owned company in China exported it as safe, pharmaceutical-grade glycerin.

The Chinese were of little help. Requests to find the manufacturer were ignored. Business records were withheld or destroyed.

Further, we have:

  • Fake Veterinary Drugs: a June 21, 2007 Reuters article has it that:

In latest scare, China finds fake veterinary drugs
Almost one-fifth of veterinary drugs tested in China in the first quarter were not up to standard, the Ministry of Agriculture said on Thursday, unveiling a long list of fake products.

Still, that one-fifth figure is a slight improvement over the same period of last year, the ministry said, putting a positive spin on the announcement.

"Although more of the veterinary drugs tested were up to scratch, there remains a problem with the illegal production and sale of fakes," it said in a statement posted on its Web site (

At least those were apparently found by the Chinese themselves.

  • Sea Food Detained: June 28, 2007, from by Andrew Bridges:

US: Chinese Seafood Detained for Safety
Farmed seafood has now joined tires, toothpaste and toy trains on the list of tainted and defective products from China that could be hazardous to a person’s health.

Federal health officials said Thursday they were detaining three types of Chinese fish — catfish, basa and dace — as well as shrimp and eel after repeated testing turned up contamination with drugs unapproved in the United States for use in farmed seafood.

China, meanwhile, insisted Thursday that the safety of its products was "guaranteed," making a rare direct comment on spreading international fears over tainted and adulterated exports.

While one can appreciate China’s growing appreciation of its growing marketing and public relations problems, it’s a little late for such a guarantee — in fact, delivering it at this late date, after all the above discoveries — rather achieves the reverse of what one supposes it was intended to achieve.

Lastly, from the New York Times, Companies in U.S. Increase Testing of Chinese Goods (which one supposes they should have been doing all along, given the source of ingredients, parts, etc.):

"Food companies have been among the most resistant to informing the public about their ingredients," said Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, who has been a leading Congressional critic of China. "Now that’s more worrisome because these ingredients are coming from an unregulated environment."

I’m going to assume that means U.S. food companies. Well enough, but there must be more to marketing than profits gained from the "globalization" of sources — lest ye suffer the same types of public relations problems as China.

Really. Read that last New York Times article to see how widespread this very likely may be. And note that all these articles were published within the last six months.

It behooves us to know our food sources.

Added to our July 2, 2007 article:

The water is either tap water or purified water from small suppliers put into the water jugs and sealed with bogus quality standard marks, the Beijing Times newspaper said in a lengthy report Monday.

US toymaker Mattel has recalled more than 18 million toys worldwide, the second such recall in two weeks.

Chinese-made Sarge die-cast toys from the Pixar film Cars have been recalled because their paint contains lead.

The article also names a list of items recalled, among them Barbie sets.

The safety problems affecting Chinese goods spread from toys to textiles on Monday as New Zealand said it would investigate allegations that imported children’s clothes contained dangerous levels of formaldehyde.

The government ordered the probe after scientists hired by a consumer watchdog programme discovered formaldehyde in Chinese clothes at levels of up to 900 times regarded as safe. Manufacturers sometimes apply formaldehyde to clothes to prevent mildew. It can cause skin rashes, irritation to the eyes and throat and allergic reactions.

All in all, it’s not looking good.

In the U.S., four cases of lead poisoning have been linked to Chinese dental fixtures. A laboratory test revealed that some contained 210 times the acceptable amount of the toxic metal.
From Cheap dental crowns from China may contain dangerous levels of LEAD

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8 Comments for "Questioning Chinese Imports"

  1. Lynn Cameron

    WOW, Diane, what a well-researched piece that brought home powerfully the need to pay special attention to buying locally whenever possible and from trusted suppliers for the rest of the time. Lynn

  2. Diane Vigil

    Thanks, Lynn. It had been on my mind, starting with the pet food recall of last March through the continuing sequence of serious issues.

    Now I know what you mean about buying locally, finding trusted suppliers, and knowing your food sources.

    Re the pet food scare, my heart goes out to those pets and pet owners who were affected. I’ll be writing about that soon — or, actually, about the Wysong pet food you’d recommended, which enabled us to skip the entire issue.

  3. Diane Vigil

    Just wanted to clarify re “buying locally”: it’s important to know what any local growers/farmers are doing. Otherwise, “buying locally” could mean you’re loading up with non-organic, pesticide-sprayed stuff.

    So … it behooves us to know our food sources and how that food is grown and processed.

  4. Diane Vigil

    One more thing:

    From the UK’s Guardian Unlimited:
    China’s food and drug agency chief sentenced to death.
    "Beijing fears a collapse of consumer confidence after a series of deadly food and drug scandals, often linked with lax regulation and bribe taking. With more Chinese products filling shelves overseas, several cases have had international repercussions."

    Sure, it’s had international repercussions, but geez …

  5. Diane Vigil

    Here we go: there were even more incidents than covered in my article. From the BBC:
    Bush tackles scares over imports

  6. Lynn Cameron

    In reading your postings regarding China back in July, I’m struck anew by the importance of the struggle of the Natural Solutions Foundation on behalf of all would-be healthy Americans. is the only link active at this time — web link sabotage has been a weekly event for them in trying to get the message out.

    This past week, I’ve been getting updates from their medical director, Dr. Rima Laibow, MD and her articulate husband, a retired U.S. army major general, on the grim and looming Codex Alimentarius, part of which 2007 agenda is to designate real food supplementals and plants as toxins by compelling global standards that are impossible to achieve in life-enhancing produce. The California legislature seems tapped into this same nefarious agenda in their war on coliforms in raw milk.

    Currently in Germany, at their own expense, and fighting the international harmonization that big medica and big pharma plan to implement globally, this couple aren’t painting a rosy future for a self-determined humanity, or for animals either.

    Crucial to the success of this well financed IIC (International Illness Conspiracy) is elimination of all competition — clean, unadulterated food and high-potency supplementals – yes, even herbs that contribute to health and wellness. Also part of the IIC plan is to stifle information that enables informed choice by both individuals and their health care providers and to create a culture of fear and enmity surrounding true life-giving substances – like raw milk, for example.

    These folks are deserving of whatever help we can give; consuming actual foodstuffs for health and well-being in the very near future is seriously at stake here.

  7. Labeling the origin of food is a good idea

    […] that labeling the origin of food is a good idea — and not just for food. Our July 1 article, Questioning Chinese Imports, enumerates a number of high-profile incidents wherein imports or ingredients from China (some of […]

  8. Whole Foods Market: California by way of China?

    […] products from China have been a serious concern, as covered in our article, Questioning Chinese Imports, and since we don't expect Whole Foods to be carrying all-organic-all-the-time, I'd say that it's […]

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