Sunday, May 20, 2007

No China Diet: Where Does Your Food Come From?

Since beginning the No China Diet, I've been trying to track where my food comes from. And if you've been playing along at home, you know this is more difficult than it seems.

We buy most groceries at Trader Joe's. I was under the general impression that most of our food came from Southern California, but I've been proven incorrect: originally most of it was either unlabelled or came from Mexico. When I deliberately began to check labels, I can often make most of the fruit and vegetables come from California. But I can't actually tell you where the rest of it comes from because it has a label that says, "Distributed by Trader Joe's, Monrovia, California." I fear that it comes from a mysterious location, and is then sent to Monrovia (sometimes Needham, Massachusetts). I fear it's China for one reason only: it's cheap.

Now why am I becoming the Paranoid Harpy of Doom about Food from China? Because you have no idea what's in your food if it's from China.

1. China uses more pesticides than any other country, so if it's not organic, chances are pesticides were used. And these aren't ordinary pesticides, but the especially toxic ones that are often illegal in this country. Frequently the farmers don't use or can't afford protective gear. This is bad news for everyone.

Resource: Pesticides Next Frontier in China Food Safety,

2. China has a booming organic market, which is wonderful, except that human waste is used as a fertilizer. And while I understand that some of this is a cultural thing, it also falls into the category of stuff I don't want to involuntarily ingest.

Resource: Sea of Pesticides Surrounds China's Organic Farms

3. Speaking of things you don't want to ingest, China has widespread mislabeling of products, so you don't know exactly what's in your food. Like toothpaste, which you're not supposed to swallow, but you probably assumed that your toothpaste didn't have poison (antifreeze) in it as many people did in Panama.

Resource: Poisoned Toothpaste in Panama is Believed to be From China, China Urges U.S. Not to Punish All Food Exporters (from Pet Food Recall)

Why is this even a problem? Congress does not require the food industry to label the country of origin of products. So unless you grew it, unless it is voluntarily and correctly labeled, you simply do not know what's in it.

And so speaks the Paranoid Harpy of Doom.