Hot and filthy

A newspaper in Taiwan newspaper is telling its readers the Chinese government reports 13% of its chili powder based products failed Chinese safety tests:

The products came from 38 companies in 12 provinces and municipalities, including Beijing and Shanghai, the report said without detailing if any of the chilli was exported.

"The products produced by small firms have lots of safety problems, while those from large- and middle-sized ones have all passed the safety tests," it quoted the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine as saying.

Many of the tested products also featured labelling that did not comply with government regulations.

The administration also found that eight percent of dried vegetables and dried fruits had failed safety tests, due mainly to excessive colour additives and the presence of sulphur dioxide. (AFP via Naharnet)

The Chinese government is apparently paying attention to the widespread concern over the safety of Chinese food exports and is taking the offensive. At least the PR offensive. And some American news outlets are listening. Like Fox News:

An official downplayed China's food safety woes Tuesday, saying they weren't as bad as reported, while showing off seized counterfeits from chewing gum to soy sauce that highlighted its continuing problem with fakes.

China has developed "very good, very complete methods" to regulate product safety, Li Dongsheng, vice minister for the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, told about 130 foreign and domestic reporters on a government-organized trip.

The rare visit to a food safety lab and storehouse for bogus goods came as Beijing tries to burnish its battered image amid scandals over tainted food exports.

"Yes, there are now some problems of food safety of Chinese products. However, they are not serious. We should not exaggerate those problems," Li said.

[snip]

Li said developed countries also have similar problems with food safety and insisted that China was treating the issue with concern.

"There is now largely no problem with food safety. It is an issue the people care about greatly," Li said. "So if there is a small problem, it becomes a big problem for us. So basically for now we can guarantee food safety."(Fox News)

Thanks for the fair and balanced account, Fox News. Unlike much of Fox's reporting, some of this is actually true. especially the part about developed nations having their own food safety problems (although I am sure the average Chinese would trade their problems for ours any day). It's not just Chinese exports that are a problem:

In fiscal 2006, almost 9 million FDA-regulated food imports entered the USA. The FDA inspected about 1% of those, given limited inspectors and rising imports. Only 0.12% were refused, FDA statistics show.

The FDA refuses products because they fail inspection, lack documents or had previous violations. For the 12 months ending April 30, it rejected almost 900 food and vitamin imports from China, records show.

[snip]

The FDA can reject foods for many reasons. For the products refused in the past year, filth was the most common reason, followed by unsafe drug residue, most often in fish or seafood. Other reasons included salmonella, pesticides and use of unsafe colors. (USAToday)

So "filth" is the most common reason. How bad does Chili have to be to be considered filthy in the US? Most American consumers would be surprised to know the FDA has "filth standards," now called Defect Action Levels (which sounds better). They are not mandatory. For Ground Capsicum, a major component of Chili powder, we have this:

Ground Capsicum (excluding paprika)

  • Mold (AOAC 945.94)Average mold count is more than 20%
  • Insect filth (AOAC 978.22)Average of more than 50 insect fragments per 25 grams
  • Rodent filth (AOAC 978.22)Average of more than 6 rodent hairs per 25 grams

DEFECT SOURCE: Mold - pre-harvest and/or post harvest mold infection. Insect fragments - pre-harvest and/or post harvest and/or processing insect infestation. Rodent hair - pre-harvest and/or post harvest and/or processing contamination with animal hair or excreta
SIGNIFICANCE: Aesthetic, Mold may contain mycotoxin producing fungi

Ground Paprika

  • Mold (AOAC 945.94)Average mold count is more than 20%
  • Insect filth (AOAC 977.25B)Average of more than 75 insect fragments per 25 gram
  • Rodent filth (AOAC 977.25B)Average of more than 11 rodent hairs per 25 grams

DEFECT SOURCE: Mold - pre and/or post harvest mold infection. Insect fragments - pre and/or post harvest and/or processing insect infestation. Rodent hair - pre and/or post harvest and/or processing contamination with animal hair or excreta
SIGNIFICANCE: Aesthetic, Potential health hazard - mold may contain mycotoxin producing fungi [From FDA Defect Action Level Handbook]

Now you know what's considered OK in the US for these foods.

Bon appétit.

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Suddenly my strict new diet looks even more appealing.

Umm.. 50 or 75 insect fragments per 25gm of ground seasoning...

Consider that the typical insect has 3 body parts and 2 antenna, we're talking 10 to 15 full insects per 25gm. But don't worry folks, it's a mandatory guideline, just an advisory. Bleh!

Parts is Parts....

Ok, I feel ill.

****Shudder****
If they are that lenient I don't think I want to know what I've been eating!

By Rebecca Van Hout (not verified) on 15 Jun 2007 #permalink