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TAS Country : September 30th 2010
32 Tasmanian Country Friday, October 1, 2010 Opinion Chinese imports cloud over food security OVER the FENCE John Rich INCREASING quantities of food prod- ucts are arriving in Australian from China, and I don't think anyone knows if the foods being imported meets our own stringent, highly regulated, food safety standards and sadly I don't think there is anywhere near enough testing of imported foods. The Australian authorities should be making sure all imported foods are safe. The Jinhao Camellia Oil Company, a Chinese manufacturer of edible cook- ing oils, has reportedly had the cancer- causing chemical benzoapyrene de- tected in its products. The reports indicate that this prob- lem was discovered in March but it was not until late August that the story broke. Reports suggest the the company secretly withdrew the product from shelves without informing consumers or the public in order to ''maintain social stability''. Jinhao now claims its product is safe and has been certified as such by local health officials. Why should anyone believe the health officials? No details were given about how or why the benzoapyrene problem arose or what has been done to overcome it. It was also recently reported that the authorities in China covered up an outbreak of cholera in Eastern China for 12 days on the basis that publicising the often fatal disease would shock the local population. This is another example of infor- mation being suppressed in China. No one will forget what happened in September 2008 when milk contami- nated with melamine was converted into baby formula. Six children died and more than 300,000 became sick after consuming the tainted milk powder. Melamine is an industrial chemical that is sometimes added to milk to give a misleadingly high protein level when tested. It was reported as recently as August that another 100 tonnes of contami- nated milk powder had been dis- covered in China's northern provinces. Asia News states: ''the resurgence of poisonous milk in poor and remote regions of the country shows that the problem of food security is far from resolved. It seems the poisonous milk comes from Hebei, the province which produced the toxic milk in 2008. It is also suggested there may be other batches of melamine contaminated powder in the eastern provinces, as yet undiscovered, or, perhaps not being reported.'' The truth about this dreadful food safety scandal may never be revealed. How many babies have died and how many thousands have become sick, some permanently, in the two years since the melamine scandal broke in September 2008? Drinking water, or just clean water, appears to be a major issue in China with rivers, lakes and underground aquifers increasingly threatened by industrial pollution. Visitors to China are advised not to drink water unless it is in a bottle. I read a report that said more than 300 million rural residents, nearly a quarter of China's total population, lack access to clean drinking water. I have been to some rural areas in China and have seen disgustingly filthy streams and waterways. Water from these sources is used to irrigate crops. Back in 2007, Associated Press ques- tioned the safety of food coming from China to the USA, noting pesticide- laden pea pods, drug-laced catfish, filthy plums and crawfish contami- nated with salmonella. AP also revealed that scores of cats and dogs died from kidney failure blamed on pet food containing mela- mine. At that time it was believed humans were not at risk. How wrong was this assessment, given what happened with infant for- mula in 2008? And while the food colouring Sudan 1 Red Dye was banned from use in 1996 due to possible links with cancer and other health issues, the additive was still being used in 2005 and I would not be surprised if it is still being used. There is reason to believe the govern- ment agencies are not equipped or trained to deal with proper food safety testing procedures. Many questions need to be asked about the safety of food from China. Pesticides and chemicals appear to be used to excess to boost yields, while harmful antibiotics are widely admin- istered to control disease in seafood and livestock. One of the really worrying things is that there is the potential for Aust- ralians to be subjected to some serious health issues, primarily because there is not enough control, inspection and testing of foods being imported into this country. Australian food safety officials should be seen to be making sure food imports from China, and anywhere else for that matter, are totally safe to consume. 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September 23rd 2010
October 7th 2010