A furtive meandering email forward about Chinese vegetables, Pacific Rim seafood, poop as nutrients & American jobs going overseas got me to doing a lot of research on food chains, food safety, sustainability & food ethics. A lot of territory, and this does not presume to be complete, but here goes.
It’s a lot of work but basically, caveat emptor, read the labels on every food product you buy, their sourcing may change from month to month. Consider writing an email to companies when you decide not to buy a product because the the origin or production values of the product. Buy foods in season. Off season foods come from far away places. Maybe you should be eating pomegranetes not strawberries in December. Processed foods are always a sourcing, and disclosure, nightmare, an example:
In the NutriGrain bar, the list of sources and ingredients is as follows:
• USA: high fructose corn syrup, sugar, wheat flour (produced and milled), whole grain oats, sunflower oil, strawberry puree, cellulose, red dye #40;
• China: vitamin and mineral supplements (B1, B2, iron, folic acid), honey;
• Philippines: carrageenan;
• India: guar gum;
• Europe: citric acid;
• Denmark: lecithin (soy);
• Italy: malic acid; and
• Scotland: sodium alginate.
“The 2002 Farm Bill and the 2008 Farm Bill amended the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require that retailers inform consumers of the country of origin of all perishable agricultural commodities beginning September 30, 2008…” per this excellent full article.
What this really means is re-thinking your budget putting a priority on paying for organic, sustainably raised foods and making as much of your food from scratch as possible. They are better for both your body and the planet’s health. Are you willing to buy fewer clothes (or movie tickets, or tech gadgets) to have more quality & control in your foods?
When choosing imported foods consider the carbon impact from shipping. East Coasters are actually using less carbon when you choose European (wine, olive oil, fruits, seafood ) over California grown because sea shipping is more energy efficient than trucking) , Mexico (even we Californians now get most of our tomatoes from Mexico, the big farms are pretty attuned to US standards), Canada. West Coast folks cause less transportation CO2 by buying from the Pacific Rim countries if we can’t get it from Mexico or western Canada. Though I enjoy the European and South American Wines, I generally buy California wines. If I’m traveling I always look for local fare & wines.
Just as we cannot categorize all US food as good or bad, we must make the same distinctions within other countries. There are honest and unethical people around the world. QVD Aqualculture out of Bellevue WA provides farmed fish from the US, Vietnam & Singapore and you will be impressed by their standards & certifications .
FDA has a lot of seafood inspections but can’t possibly inspect everything. China is the only entire county on their seafood watchlist.
A great seafood guide from the Monterey Bay Aquarium includes guides for different regions of the US see: Print a copy and keep it in your purse or with your coupons.
There is a HUGE difference between Chinese veggies for the US/Canada frozen market & Chinese seafood, meat & products grown for their internal markets.
“ Farmland is communally owned, so a foreign business, often working with a Chinese agent, will approach a village council and propose a farming arrangement. After a community vote, the entire village contracts with the company to supply the agricultural product. The farmers agree to use the seeds and other inputs the foreign company provides… export crops are part of a separate food system. .. vegetables headed abroad are monitored along the food chain: farmers grow the organic vegetables on plots of land that are often less than an acre, then bring the harvest, usually by hand-pulled cart, to a company processing plant, where it is inspected. Plant employees.. wash and prepare the vegetables—all by hand. Before leaving the factory, the vegetables are put through a double metal detector. …“The Chinese are super careful,” echoed Rozelle. The vegetables destined for foreign supermarkets are inspected by government employees before they leave the country. “They know if they get to the port and find residues, it will be rejected.”
Overseas trade is a huge balancing act. Depending on US markets for the wellbeing of the Chinese population certainly keeps them from extreme military measures; slowly their population is becoming consumers who will begin to be their own best customers.