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As slippery as an eel
June 28, 2007 12:44 PM   Subscribe


 
There's lots of concern being raised about the food that is coming out of China. Much of this information is coming to light after increased concern of what is actually in the food after the recent and widespread deaths of thousands of pets. Not so amazing to see a number of factories shut down for using industrial chemicals in human grade foods.
posted by chrisroberts at 1:24 PM on June 28, 2007


btw, the LD 50 of Melamine is about the same as table salt. That is, it is about as poisonous as table salt.
posted by delmoi at 1:32 PM on June 28, 2007


good point demoi - what's the LD 50 of dirt? We should feed that to fish too.
posted by GuyZero at 1:35 PM on June 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


im in ur guv, bannin ur fish.
posted by jlowen at 1:41 PM on June 28, 2007


I'd like to poke around some american fish farming factories and see what turns up.
posted by 2sheets at 1:48 PM on June 28, 2007


God forbid we start thinking about eating locally.
posted by mek at 1:51 PM on June 28, 2007


btw, the LD 50 of Melamine is about the same as table salt. That is, it is about as poisonous as table salt.

The LD50 does not account for sensitivity; a goodly number of people could, in theory, die from a very small amount if they were sensitive. I don't know if anyone has a sensitivity, I am just pointing out the limitation of a single score. Additionally the the amount of melamine in the fish *could* (but probably doesn't) far exceed the amount of salt; there is no reason why they should be present in comparable quantities.
posted by Bovine Love at 1:53 PM on June 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


I seem to recall that there are existing issues with farmed fish being high in mercury because normal fish food is ground-up low quality fish, pushing the salmon higher on the food chain than they'd normally be.

In other news, many people have died of something. THis melamine thing is stupid, but I'm all outraged out at this point. Does it really make farmed fish dangerous to eat - snark aside, I assume delmoi's real point was that it doesn't.
posted by GuyZero at 1:53 PM on June 28, 2007


Melamine is not the only issue to contend with, it's a piece of the puzzle.
posted by SaintCynr at 1:57 PM on June 28, 2007


After having seen what some people try to import in their hand luggage, I'm rather more concerned about the "filthy" fish than the melamine.

When inspectors say "filthy" do they mean a speck of dirt, or do they mean "slimy and crawling with maggots"? Because some people seem to think the latter is perfectly A-OK and get quite peeved when Customs seizes their delicacy. Meanwhile, the rest of us in the inspection area tried not to puke when that bag got opened.

Given how food inspectors behave nationally, I'm willing to bet "filthy" means: horrifying.
posted by aramaic at 1:58 PM on June 28, 2007


I seem to recall that there are existing issues with farmed fish being high in mercury..

Slight derail, but isn't all fish subject to mercury? The mercury is from atmospheric air pollution that mixes with the oxygen in the water that fish breathe. You could catch a rare fish from a pristine Himalayan stream that might still be loaded with mercury. The thing to look for in fish as far as mercury poisoning is concerned is which fish retain it in their fat and which fish manage to filter it out. I know for some tuna, their fat levels vary according to season currents (See EPA).

But about the Chinese ban, besides the fact that their food might or might not be toxic, it seems rather silly to import food from China when we're perfectly capable of producing it here.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:01 PM on June 28, 2007


we're perfectly capable of producing it here

Sure you can produce it, but not cheaply enough.

If I can sell you a fish sandwich for $12, will I buy fish from the local guy at $10, or frozen fish from China for $6? Since I gotta worry about overhead, China is a no-brainer.

So what if your pet died in a freak confluence of chemistry? So what if a couple hundred people died in Panama from mislabeled chemicals?

There's money to be had, and there's always going to be someone that's willing to take the chance they won't be the ones to get caught. Chinese businessmen today, Lao businessmen tomorrow. Or India. Or Mozambique. Or Flint Michigan.

Product safety is a very very complicated problem; anyone, anywhere along the chain can decide to skim a few extra bucks by going cheaper. Unless you have end-to-end enforcement, it'll just keep happening.
posted by aramaic at 2:19 PM on June 28, 2007


Product safety is a very very complicated problem; anyone, anywhere along the chain can decide to skim a few extra bucks by going cheaper.

Some fish caught in Newfoundland are sent to China for cleaning and filleting and then back to Canada for sale, as Canadian product . The consumer has no idea where their food has been and generally cannot find out for a given product. And when you treat food as product, that is what you get.
posted by Bovine Love at 2:25 PM on June 28, 2007


Supposedly much of the wild salmon caught in Alaska is partially farmed, according to this video.
posted by parallax7d at 2:29 PM on June 28, 2007


This is why I eat only fish I catch myself. With my bare hands.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:36 PM on June 28, 2007


Yeah but think about where those hands have been, AZ.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 2:50 PM on June 28, 2007


aramaic writes "Product safety is a very very complicated problem"

Not that much complicated ; what's complicated is moving the costs and risks of administering bad food from people-consumer to producers who couldn't care less. Clearly their cost socialization is unacceptable and in this instance should be considered a felony. But throwing a few people into jail wouldn't do much, nor would fines that are probably going to be reduced in appeal anyway.

Mandatory sampling and analysis comes to mind, but something not to relaxed it could be easily be "forgotten" by unscrupolous officiers.

Then of course scaring the hell out of managements and ownerships in borderline legal ways is a last solution that shouldn't be considered. Maybe.
posted by elpapacito at 2:57 PM on June 28, 2007


... lets see... Magic eraser? Toothpaste aisle!
posted by acro at 4:29 PM on June 28, 2007


More trade war speculation.
posted by SaintCynr at 4:35 PM on June 28, 2007


So we need Chinese food because we can't afford locally-grown food? Tell me again why CEOs are making 400x average worker's wages. Seems to me if things were more equitable, we wouldn't need China quite so much.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:03 PM on June 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Look how carefully the chinese care for their own environent and you'll be sure to understand just how important food quality is to them.

OTOH, this smells like psy-ops to me.
posted by Fupped Duck at 8:12 PM on June 28, 2007


Seems to me if things were more equitable, we wouldn't need China quite so much.

Indeed. I really didn't care about the endless flow of Chinese made goods coming over here until I saw a pack of garlic bulbs made in China. Kind of outrageous, really. But it galvanized me somewhat to try to buy American (hopefully stuff made in USA proper, not a protectorate with reduced labor oversight) as much as possible, especially with food.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:19 PM on June 28, 2007


Wasn't there an article on here on the food bill that 's up in Congress this year? just think if our government subsidized small scale organic farms that sell locally instead of Monsanto, Cargill, and ADM.
posted by eustatic at 8:24 PM on June 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


So what if your pet died in a freak confluence of chemistry? So what if a couple hundred people died in Panama from mislabeled chemicals?

so what if your country can't sell food to mine?

bottom line - china needs to clean up their act or else
posted by pyramid termite at 8:41 PM on June 28, 2007


Bovine Love: The LD50 does not account for sensitivity; a goodly number of people could, in theory, die from a very small amount if they were sensitive.

It also doesn't account for accumulative toxicity, doesn't account well for carcinogenicity, and leaves out synergistic/antagonistic relationships with other chemicals.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:43 PM on June 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Mitro--

Bingo. What seems to be the issue is the interaction between Melamine and Cyanuric Acid. Wikipedia has all the details.

From what I've heard, the dead cats and dogs all had massive crystallization in their kidneys.
posted by effugas at 5:09 AM on June 29, 2007


Mitrovarr, Thanks for the additional information! I read up some on LD50 and was struck by how thin it was; useful for perhaps some limited range of substances, but with an awful lot of assumptions built in.

I had my cats tested for "renal failure" due to possible melamine contamination (they were fine). The food company is covering some portion of the test (don't know how much yet, we haven't yet heard back). It made me extremely angry, really; I was buying 'premium' food (very premium) and I expected them to, at the minimum, buy the ingredients carefully. I am not usually so trusting, and it saddens me that I could not trust them even in this small thing. I did read up some one it and it seems there is a shortage of protein available; now, of course, the real question is why we are needing to add protein in such a raw form; the answer is of course that it is product, not food, and is manufactured as product, not food, with just about as much care as a radio is made.
posted by Bovine Love at 6:33 AM on June 29, 2007


so what if your country can't sell food to mine?

That's missing the point. You should have said "so what if nobody can sell anything to anyone else?"

The Panamanians died because the "glycerine" in their cough syrup was really antifreeze, shipped through multiple resellers in different countries. If Panama had outlawed all trade with China, those people still would have died.

Materials get shipped & re-shipped so many times that it's essentially impossible to maintain an ongoing chain-of-custody record. You can establish one after the fact, after something bad happens, but not beforehand. The international trading industries simply don't maintain the records and technologies needed. The technologies exist, the methods exist, but everyone involved will fight tooth and nail to stop them from being implemented. Why? It's expensive, and you don't really care.

You might think you care, but you don't.

Nobody does; cheaper is better, right? More is better. Walmart would be a small chain in a couple of prairie states if people really cared about quality. IKEA would, just now, be opening a store across the Baltic Sea. Instead they're global giants; the difference between where they are now and where they started is a measure of how highly people value cheap things. It doesn't matter if you've never patronized either establishment; everyone else does.

Cheap things are better things, and if someone we've never met has to die for it, well sucks for them.

In the Glorious New Regime the solution is simple: if anyone dies due to product quality, the dreaded Special Services Division simply identifies the businessmen involved along the entire chain of custody, and hangs them and their families from a nearby streetlight. Piano wire being cheaper than bullets, of course -- we pass the savings on to you, the consumer!
posted by aramaic at 6:45 AM on June 29, 2007


Cheap things are better things, and if someone we've never met has to die for it, well sucks for them.

Chocolate, coffee, tantalum, oil, African diamonds, and virtually anything made in China.

Our western culture floats on the back of abused and deceased third-worlders.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:09 AM on June 29, 2007 [1 favorite]




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