The Chinese government’s official Xinhua press agency reported on December 30 that food safety inspectors in the southern city of Shenzhen had discovered carcinogenic mildew in peanuts and cooking oil at some markets and restaurants.
High levels of the toxin aflatoxin were found in peanuts in three markets, and in cooking oil in four restaurants, Xinhua reported. “Aflatoxin is produced by a fungus that commonly grows on crops such as grains and peanuts,” the news site reported.” While the toxin is found in insignificant levels in most peanut crops, including those grown in the United States, high levels of aflatoxin have been linked to liver damage and cancer.
An earlier report from the government news site said that high levels of the same toxic substance had been found recently in milk and other products from a popular dairy company in the region. “An initial investigation showed that the contamination was caused by mildewed feed given to cows in the dairy’s plant in southwest Sichuan province,” reported Xinhua. The news agency said that the Mengniu Dairy Company had “issued a public apology in an online statement, but insisted that the problem was discovered before the tainted milk could enter the market.”
China has been dealing with concerns over food safety since a high-profile crisis in 2008, when hundreds of thousands of children became ill, and at least a half dozen died, after drinking powdered milk laced with melamine, a chemical used in making plastics, that had been surreptitiously added to diluted milk in order to bump up protein readings. The scandal led to the execution of at least two individuals involved in the contamination, along with prison sentences for others ranging from 15 years to life.
According to the BBC, melamine contamination surfaced in the country’s dairy industry again in 2010, when inspectors confiscated significant quantities of melamine-laced milk powder from a dairy plant in Qinghai province. “Test samples showed the milk powder carried up to 500 times the maximum allowed level of the chemical,” the BBC reported.
But it appears that problems with safe food in China may go further than milk, peanuts, and cooking oil. Kathleen McLaughlin, an American journalist who has spent a decade living in China and covering many aspects of its society, noted in a recent GlobalPost.com story that a significant amount of rice grown in China may be contaminated by cadmium. In fact, noted McLaughlin, researchers estimate that as much as 12 million tons of all grains grown annually in China may be contaminated through the heavy-metal polluted soil in which it is grown.
“The toxic rice reports gained traction in February, when Chinese media highlighted scientific studies showing that up to 10 percent of rice grown in China contained cadmium,” reported McLaughlin. “The toxic heavy metal was presumably deposited onto southern China’s fertile farmlands through years of industrial waste and sewage disposal.”
It is little wonder that China’s food safety problem has raised concerns in the United States. Since 1995, agricultural and seafood imports from China have risen from some $800 million annually to at least $4.1 billion, and with it has come a steady cycling of bans for contaminated and unsafe products. For example, in July 2007, CNN reported on a U.S. ban on several types of Chinese fish and shrimp because of the discovery by inspectors of cancer-causing chemicals and antibiotics in the products.
As of November 2011, a list of foreign products the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently refusing into the United States includes 143 from China (down from 257 four years earlier), including oatmeal, fish fillets, squid, salmon, pollock, frog legs, mushrooms, dried citrus, and caramel popcorn, all for dangerous ingredients or filthy and decomposing product. In addition the banned products included nutritional supplements, medical devices, and makeup.
According to an NPR report, toothpaste was another Chinese import on the FDA’s radar, because of fears that it contained the same “sweetener” — a poisonous ingredient used in the manufacture of anti-freeze — that had killed consumers of Chinese cough syrup sold in Panama.
Find out more and read the whole Story at Source of Article: The New American.com