Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

On the Safety of Imported Food?

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A hatchery on a shrimp farm in South Korea.

A hatchery on a shrimp farm in South Korea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Almost 15 percent of foods that hit U.S. dinner tables come from outside the country.  Imported food products do not receive the same degree of scrutiny as U.S. foods.  That includes about half our fruit, 20 percent of our vegetables and 80 percent of our seafood.  About 90% of the shrimp comes mainly from Southeast Asia, Ecuador, and Mexico.  Multiple  ingredients found in processed foods comes from other countries and the label does not reflect these sources.

These foods are technically supposed to meet the same standards as U.S foods, but in reality many do not. For example, shrimp from some Southeast Asian shrimp farms are found to be loaded with toxic antibiotics that are not approved in the U.S.

U.S produced foods are inspected far more than imported foods.  Some of the problem lies with the lack of resources, namely money and staff.  The FDA is stretched to the maximum in its duties of product protection.  We have only about 1 500 food inspectors for imported foods – much too small a number to keep up with the detection of food-borne pathogens or  toxic contaminants in the ever-increasing number of imports coming to the U.S.

The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 is supposed help alleviate this problem, but critics say this may not help much.  Still more resources are needed than will be available.  We may have to rely more on the importing countries to rev up their standards to meet ours which appears at this time to be a daunting task due to the politics and trade practices that now exist with our global  food supply.

To read about some problems with Chinese imports:


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