Food Contamination Concerns

With recent food contamination linked to imported goods, many people are worried about eating food that comes from foreign countries. Barry Petersen reports on how the Chinese feel the problem should be handled.
I'm Barry Petersen and this Letter from Asia comes from Beijing. Much has been said lately about the safety of the food we import from this country, especially the tactics of unscrupulous businessmen. So we get stories of food with too much pesticide or illegal and dangerous chemicals or dyes used to make the food look better.

China's government says it's trying, and claims it inspects every departing shipment. That's more important than ever with China now one of the world leading food exporters.

We traveled to a private laboratory in Shandong province, and got a very different perspective from the man who runs it and once farmed in China; His name is John Chapple.

"I believe that Chinese fruits and vegetables can be as safe as from anywhere else," says Chapple. "We very rarely find pesticides that are unsafe, levels of pesticides that are unsafe. It is more likely that we find pesticides in the wrong place. So there may be something that is not allowed to be used for export to the USA but is allowed for export to Europe."

But bad food is getting through, but Chapple does not see more government regulation as the answer. It is up to the United States to borrow a page from its European counterparts, he says, where companies who sell products are the ones who do the testing and checking.

"If I am a company in Europe or United States and I decide to buy something from a company in China or India or somewhere else it is my responsibility to determine that what I buy is safe," says Chapple. "For my customers for my brand, I have to make sure that this is a safe product and I think that in the U.S. there is more that has to be done to encourage companies to take responsibility for their own products."

Food is one of the real examples of the global economy; what isn't in season in one country can be in another, and shipped to a grocery store near you. So it's buyer beware all-right - the company that buys, that is.

That way, by the time we load up our shopping carts with food from China or Brazil or Italy, the only recipe for disaster we need worry about is the one that makes the soufflé…fall.
By Barry Petersen