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Thursday, May 31, 2007

A brave Chinese journalist weighs in

from Can the U.S. guarantee food safety in China?
by Lian Yue, Chinese journalist, translated from the Chinese on Danwei. This ran in state-controlled media, which is impressive.

After The New York Times published explosive special reports about medicine and food safety in China, a huge problem that faces ordinary Chinese people has finally became a international issue. It's a shocking reminder of how small the world has become: Chinese people can get to know China through The New York Times; Americans can get sick by eating toxic food from China. Nobody was surprised when the vice director of GAQSIQ (General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of PRC, ??????) responded that the Chinese government "pays close attention to consumers' safety and works hard all the time to guarantee the quality of products and health of people." No one wants to lose face, I can understand this kind of excuse. But perhaps it would be more praiseworthy if they admitted the problems that everyone knows exist.

Based on the theory that everyone is equal, the Chinese food producers have poisoned everyone, whether Chinese or American. So Americans have been forced to pay attention the Chinese food safety issue. This makes many people have hope, thinking that the food safety problem will at last be solved.
read the rest

I don't want to beat this issue of imported (and domestic!) food safety to death, but I do hope I am contributing to enough heightened awareness and concern so that no one will suffer or perish from imported food and food component contamination.

The issue is financially and politically charged and powers that be are on notice. If you are an American and have an American address, you can add your voice to the demand for better food safety precautions by joining Consumers Union's campaign of emailing members of Congress. Click through to Not in My Food!, fill in your name & address, personalizing the email with your own comments (or not) and click Send. CU will get it to your particular congresspersons. We can and will do better.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Food & Drug safety chief sentenced to death in China

The unusually harsh sentence ... comes at a time of heightened concerns about the quality and safety of China’s food and drug system after a series of scandals involving tainted food and phony drugs.

China is also under mounting pressure to overhaul its food export controls after two Chinese companies were accused this year of shipping contaminated pet food ingredients to the United States...

The incidents pose a huge threat to China’s growing food and drug exports and have already led to international calls for new testing and screening methods for Chinese-made goods.

The problems are more serious in China because tens of thousands of people are sickened or killed every year because of rampant counterfeiting and phony food and drugs...

Today, the government said it was preparing to release its first regulation on nationwide food recalls.

The government also said it would crack down on food products that are being illegally exported, bypassing food inspections.
read the rest in the New York Times

The sentence is not that "unusually harsh," as noted in a previous post here. While I was in China I read, in English language Chinese newspapers, of a number of death sentences for corruption involving great financial loss or damage to China's image. One, when I first arrived, involved smuggling, others were for graft and embezzlement. In China a crime against capital is a capital crime. The post linked to above was in 2003, about how China had redoubled its efforts to crack corruption. It seems they haven't made enough progress since then, even though you read reports regularly, in state controlled media, of corruption arrests and convictions. This one is, excuse the pun, pretty high up on the food chain.

I understand Vice Premier Wu Yi promised better controls on exported food and components at the trade talks last week, but anyone who's spent any length of time in China knows that this will be a long time coming, if at all. I'm utterly certain the intention of the government is to assure that all exported and domestically consumed food and food components are clean and safe, but this is next to impossible for them. They've grown too fast to keep up. The administrative infrastructure is not in place, violations occur in countless hard-to-administrate locations, regulations are at the behest of officials who take bribes and producers who are cavalier about regulations and quick to shrug them off if caught.

I know protectionism is a dirty word, but protection shouldn't be, where health and safety are concerned. Since for the present the onus is on this country to assure the safety of consumable imports, I don't see any problem in having China pay for some of it. This is one case, I sincerely believe, where tariffs and sanctions are called for, and quickly, before any more damage is done.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Concern about hazardous Chinese Exports continues to grow--even in China

More coverage on the hazards of Chinese imports in the context of last week's high level Chinese-American trade talks in Washington.

From the BBC based on a Beijing News report. This might signal the easing of the Chinese press grey-out of this information.

Some Chinese-made toys have been banned in the EU
More than 20% of Chinese-made toys and baby clothes are below standard, the country's consumer watchdog has said.

An investigation by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine found some were even dangerous, Beijing News said.
Some baby clothes contained harmful chemicals, the investigation found
In an article in the (Toronto, Canada) Globe & Mail covering other issues as well, pertinent to China-U.S. trade talks in Washington:

On Thursday, the United States officially asked China to increase oversight on food and drug exports. After the U.S. Congress becomes aware of how widespread and potentially dangerous such Chinese exports appear to be, it will not be just asking for oversight.

Already, the U.S. Food and Drug administration has banned imports of Chinese toothpaste, and warned U.S. consumers not to buy or eat imported fish from China labelled as monkfish. The toothpaste may have a deadly chemical that is used in car antifreeze, and the monkfish might actually be puffer fish, which has a potentially deadly toxin called tetrodotoxin.

the whole article is worth a read


some dam hawg!

See StinkyJournalism-Hogwash! for an analysis of how this photo was doctored to make the pig seem bigger than it was, and a continuing report on how many major news sources were duped.

An 11-year-old Alabama boy used a pistol to kill a wild hog his father says weighed a staggering 1,051 pounds and measured 9-feet-4 from the tip of its snout to the base of its tail. Think hams as big as car tires. ...

Jamison Stone, who killed his first deer at age 5, was hunting with father Mike Stone and two guides in east Alabama on May 3 when he bagged Hogzilla II. He said he shot the huge animal eight times with a .50- caliber revolver and chased it for three hours through hilly woods before finishing it off with a point-blank shot.

With the pig finally dead in a creek bed on the 2,500-acre Lost Creek Plantation, a commercial hunting preserve in Delta, trees had to be cut down and a backhoe brought in to bring Jamison's prize out of the woods.
from AP via

Friday, May 18, 2007

The China Syndrome

Trade with China is on a collision course to a major meltdown.

On April 26 when the "Not Made in China" airport ad was posted on Crackpot Chronicles, hits on that picture quadrupled traffic here for two weeks and it continues to account for almost double the normal number of daily hits. Not mentioned, but implied in the terse accompanying text, was the growing concern over toxic pet food contaminated with adulterated wheat gluten imported from China and its effect on underlying consumer suspicions about doing so much business with China, with too little regulation on their side. And it's escalating as the pace of news accelerates.

When it came out, after China first denied, then tried to deflect the situation, that the contamination was deliberate and profit-driven, the anguish--thousands of pets died a horrible death--turned to outrage.

This month the FDA issued a warning to manufacturers and suppliers of prescription and OTC drugs, advising them to avoid using glycerin imported from China after counterfeit Chinese glycerin adulterated with an industrial solvent proved lethal to consumers in Haiti and Panama.

In today's Times, An Export Boom Suddenly Facing a Quality Crisis reports that "The former head of [China's] food and drug safety watchdog is now on trial in Beijing, accused of accepting bribes and failing to curb the growing market in fake and dangerous medicines."

Some other excerpts:
[Major food company] executives worry that another scare involving China could set off a consumer backlash against Chinese...imports and reverse a tend that has made large food makers increasingly dependent on processed ingredients from developing countries


The frequency of recalls of Chinese imports has risen in recent years, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. For instance, two weeks ago Wal-Mart announced a nationwide recall of baby bibs made in China after some of those bibs tested positive for high levels of lead.
It goes on to cite that children's jewelry imported from China was recalled due to a high content of lead.

How much of the profit from cheap imports is going to be eroded by having to police the safety of consumables? Corporate manufacturers have a huge stake in Chinese imports, and good reason to insist that safety issues can be worked out cooperatively. On May 9, Senators Durbin and DeLauro met with the FDA commissioner and the ambassador from China to hammer out the groundwork for food safety agreements. The ambassador from China? Is this a diplomatic issue? (The official U.S. government press release, replete with congratulatory blather is here)

The more significant question is how much more is the American consumer going to stand for? Consumers like saving money, but the huge profits the corporations are reaping do not make up for the loss of American manufacturing jobs. In an economy where the corporations are booming, but the middle class is hurting and the trade imbalance is monumental, there is growing resentment in the private sector and this time they're not buying globalization as an excuse. Add to that the headline grabbing safety issues and you have the makings of a perfect storm. The above-cited Times article states:
Many consumers have...told pet food makers that they want goods that are free of any ingredients from China, according to the Pet Food Institute.
It's not likely to stop with pet food. With a presidential campaign building up a head of steam, watch for predictions of regulations, quotas and trade sanctions. In Sino-American trade talks in Washington next week, there will be more pressure to revalue the Chinese yuan which keeps Chinese export prices artificially low. This has gone from kibbles to quality of life and people are mad as hell.

That airport ad by an independent American furniture maker in Maine was a small sign of a rapidly spreading ground-up backlash against Chinese imports. The sound of trade with China has become a rapid fire tattoo of other shoes dropping.

more stories:
China Investigates Contaminated Toothpaste ...diethylene glycol had been used in toothpaste in China for years and...producers believed it was not very harmful

Tainted Chinese Imports Common These were among the 107 food imports from China that the Food and Drug Administration detained at U.S. ports just last month, agency documents reveal, along with more than 1,000 shipments of tainted Chinese dietary supplements, toxic Chinese cosmetics and counterfeit Chinese medicines.

For years, U.S. inspection records show, China has flooded the United States with foods unfit for human consumption. And for years, FDA inspectors have simply returned to Chinese importers the small portion of those products they caught -- many of which turned up at U.S. borders again, making a second or third attempt at entry.

Chinese Catfish Banned in 3 States
Chinese Catfish Banned in Ala., Miss. and La. Over Antibiotics Use
MOBILE, Ala. (AP) -- Chinese catfish treated with a banned antibiotic have been shut out of three Southeastern states over food safety issues.
The U.S. catfish industry, which is threatened by China's low prices, has praised the move, but it is viewed as political by importers.

Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks last month issued the "stop-sale" order after tests conducted by the state found what he described as dangerous levels of a banned antibiotic -- fluoroquinolones -- in 14 out of 20 catfish imported from China.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

First Local Reading!

(click to enlarge)

You're all invited!

Friday, May 11, 2007

No D.W.T. in Washington

I was busy at my desk with the national news on TV when I heard the anchor announce that Washington has passed a law against driving while Texan. It's really true.

I was in an abstracted reverie as I waited for the full story, which, when it eventually unraveled, was about how Washington State has passed a law against driving while texting. It is now a crime to read or send a text message on a mobile phone or PDA while driving in Washington. Not exactly as good as Driving While Texan, but not a bad law all in all.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Team Mag Queen's PD festivities

MarleneThe Parkinson's Unity Walk in New York was a resounding success and a peak experience. 10,200 walkers marched for 2 miles around Central Park, which was alive with cherry blossoms, new daffodils, tulips, crocus, forsythia and other spring flowers in early stages of bloom. It was a beautiful day, not too hot, not too cold and it didn't rain as predicted.

It started with a rally and a show, where Lonnie Ali brought us to tears when she tearfully expressed how much an inspiration Michael J. Fox had been to her husband, the Champ. Mohammed Ali's lovely daughter MayMay also spoke and among others, our fearless Team Mag Queen leader, Marlene Kahan (above) was recognized for the more than 10 million dollars worth of ad space she'd brought to the event over the years.

Our team was the second highest fundraiser -- thank you all for your donations on my fundraising page. I'm within a hair of my funding goal and they're still accepting donations till June. I am so proud to have had the privilege of being a part of this event.Michael J. Fox
Foxy Hug

After the march, we reconvened at Marlene's fabulous home for a soiree with some of the PUW participants and celebs. Among them, the aforementioned MayMay, all dolled up because she was going to see A Color Purple on Broadway after, the riveting John Ball who organizes Team Parkinson's at the L.A. Marathon and other events, the charming and handsome Davis Phinney, a former bike racing champion, a member of the first American team to compete at the Tour de France. He was an inspired speaker at the rally. A good time was had by all.
It was inspiring and empowering to be in a room full of radiant people, who, even in the face of a degenerative disease, strive to make it better for others, live vigorously and whose sense of commitment and hope is a testament to life itself.
Ball and Ali

I've got wunnerful pictures, of many of the aforementioned peeps, and moi, but Blogger has been reluctant to upload them for some I'll add them as soon as I can.

And here, belatedly are the pictures.

Ellen says hey
Mainer, New Yawka, Beijinger, Californian, points between. News, views and ballyhoos that piqued my interest and caused me to sigh, cry, chuckle, groan or throw something.

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