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How Bad Is Food Contamination from China

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Over the past few months, Chinese products (and Chinese food imports in particular) have taken a beating in the world press.

So how bad is it?

The simple truth is that no country in the world can guarantee their products to be 100% safe. Yes, but isn’t food from China more dangerous than from anywhere else?

Not necessarily.

Is Food Safe From China?

The Chinese press has been busy promoting the results of a July report from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, which stated that 99.42% of the imported food from China in 2006 met safety standards. Surprisingly, this turned out to be better than either Europe (99.38%) or the United States (which came in at the bottom of the pack at 98.69%).

Look, this really has little to do with China (although more accountability is certainly a good thing). The bottom line is that there’s always some risk associated with food. The problem is everywhere, not just China.

  • Kroger recalls potato salad
  • E. coli alert is issued for ground beef
  • Spinach recalled over salmonella
  • Valio orders recall of thousands of cartons of cooking cream

Yes, we want to keep food as clean and as healthy as possible, but let’s not overreact here. Banning foods from China may make people feel good in a nationalistic way, or score political points for someone seeking election, but as we’ve just seen, domestically grown foods are at least as dangerous — if not more so. In the end, the net result of food bans probably has more to do with politics and money than health. And as for many safety options, they are potentially more counterproductive than healthy.

Given a choice, I’d rather have a little higher risk (a fraction of a percent it turns out), but maintain my access to organic produce, raw organic dairy, unpasteurized juice and nuts, and non-irradiated meat and produce.

Hey, and just for a little perspective: before you worry about food from China, you might want to clean up your cell phone. It’s a far more likely threat than bad food from the Middle Kingdom.