It's been a little while since I blogged! I am a big believer in eating local and this story caught my attention. We all know China has a history of some food issues. People get upset when just talking about it. After all, People died! When thinking about eating local, food from China is about the polar opposite! I'm not talking about food from your local Chinese or Thai restaurant. Yes, the restaurant is local, but where are the ingredients coming from??? There are local restaurants that buy their ingredients locally (l'thai - i love you!). More on l'thai at a later point, but just to say that they are amazing! They use almost 100% natural, organic ingredients and buy local/humane products as much as possible. And the food is lick your plate good. mmmm.
Part of the importance of eating locally is the environment. We all know that it takes quite a bit of gas/oil to fly food from China to the US, then from the port of entry to your local store. Also consider the freshness. How fresh can food be if it traveled that far? But the article I just read focused on quality and safety. Other countries (even our neighbors in mexico) do not have our same strict guidelines (some people even argue ours aren't strict enough!) for food safety. According to a recent summary of 2011 inspections in China, over half of the food industry inspections failed! Many were "minor defects", but 10% were critical including large quantity of rodent fecal matter! Gross! They also found that over half of food packaging failed in 2011 when inspected. Failed packaging can lead to spoiled food (especially when traveling half way around the world). However, more alarming was that toxic amounts of contaminants like formaldehyde and lead can leech out of packaging, contaminate the food and cause serious harm to consumers.
Are you thinking that this could never affect you? In 2011, China exported over 4.5 billion tons of food. Those odds aren't great! Are you thinking US inspectors might catch the contaminated food before you eat it? The article identified the need for comprehensive laboratory testing (i.e. we don't have any). I'm thinking the way it will be discovered now is when many people are affected and its tracked back - after people were sick. Food exported from china is not just used in Chinese restaurants, it's used in ALL types of restaurants. So, next time you see a restaurant "bragging" about using fresh and local ingredients, take heed. They are not just putting money back into local communities, supporting local farmers, helping to reduce the usage of gas/oil, serving you super fresh food; they might just save your life!
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