Food in America such as beef, bread and vegetables are grown or raised within the U.S, but an increasing amount of our food is imported in a highly interconnected and complex global food chain.
According to the USDA, almost 17 percent of the food that Americans eat is imported from other countries, an increase of 11.3% from two decades ago.
Brazil accounts for half of U.S. juice imports, and a surprising 85 percent of the apple juice we consume is imported, mostly from China. These imports take place despite two U.S. orange growing states, California and Florida, and several apple growing states.
About half of the fresh fruit Americans consume is imported, along with more than 80 percent of the fish and seafood, according to the American Society for Microbiology — a roughly 60 percent increase since 1990.
Fungicide in Orange Juice From Brazil
One of the side effects of a global food market is the lack of regulation and detection of tainted food, which explains what happened a few weeks ago when a fungicide called carbendazim was discovered in imported orange juice from Brazil. Carbendazim is a toxic pesticide that’s not supposed to be in orange juice.
Fox News reported the Food and Drug Administration said 19 of the 45 samples it had taken since testing began on January 4 were safe, but the remainder were “pending analysis and/or are under compliance review.”
The threat of a total halt in Brazilian juice imports fueled a frenzy of buying in the frozen concentrated orange juice futures last week. “You’re not going to get the all-clear for months. That’s why we have such a nervous market,” said James Cordier, a senior analyst with brokerage Optionsellers.com in Florida.
According to toxicologist Dr. Gary Ginsberg with The Huffington Post, Coca-Cola found the carbendazim OJ problem and reported it to the FDA, whose agency has never tested for carbendazim in imported or domestic orange juice.
“This shows holes in the regulatory system that freighters full of OJ fit through on a daily basis,” writes Ginsberg.
“Preventing toxic pesticides from entering the U.S. is essential to public health. Our regulatory framework was set up decades ago to control chemical use in domestic crops but is outmanned by the barrage of food imports that enter the US each day.”
Ginsberg warns that when the FDA is not vigilant and thorough in its testing, the FDA encourages pesticide abuse overseas and puts us all in jeopardy.
“There is little point in regulating bad actor pesticides in consumer countries like the US when you do nothing to stop the manufacture and sale of these chemicals elsewhere. This creates the ‘circle of poison’ in which banned chemicals can circle the globe end up in our diet anyway since they are readily available in producer countries which have lax regulation.”
Thus far, most consumers are seemingly oblivious to the OJ event. Fox notes YouGov BrandIndex, which tracks indicators of brand health, said Attention scores for Minute Maid and Tropicana – which measures whether consumers had heard news or advertising – had remained pretty flat over the past month.
“The absence of a spike in Attention scores coinciding with this story indicates it has not had a big impact on U.S. consumers as a whole,” said global managing director Ted Marzilli.
Arsenic in Apple Juice
Consumer Reports has urged the FDA to limit consumers’ exposure to excessive levels of arsenic and lead in apple and grape juice, and warns that the level the FDA deems acceptable is much too high.
Ten percent of the apple and grape juice samples Consumer Reports tested had total arsenic levels exceeding federal drinking-water standards of 10 parts per billion (ppb) and 25 percent had lead levels higher than the 5 ppb limit for bottled water set by the Food and Drug Administration.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, only 17 percent of the apple juice sold in the U.S. is produced in America. The rest comes from other countries, mostly China, Argentina, Chile and Brazil. Arsenic is not always regulated in other countries where it may be in the water supply or used in pesticides contaminating the juice.
“In just one type of juice, there can be apple concentrate from up to seven countries,” said Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of The Dr. Oz Show.
Fish Imports From China Raised on Feces
Michael Doyle, a microbiologist with the University of Georgia, claims food producers in China regularly use untreated human and animal waste for feeding farmed fish meant for human consumption. “Feces is the primary nutrient for growing the tilapia in China,” he said.
Doyle said legislation passed in the U.S. late last year is suppose to ensure companies establish appropriate oversight, but the FDA has done nothing to effectively implement the new law.
In Thailand, chicken coops with as many as 20,000 birds are often suspended in rows above ponds used for farming shrimp and fish. The sea life feeds on the chicken waste that falls in the water.
Country-Of-Origin Food Labeling Banned in U.S.
If you were thinking of proactively protecting yourself or your family from tainted food products by NOT purchasing orange juice imported from Brazil, or apple juice from China, or fake honey also from China (more than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn’t real honey), you’re out of luck.
Although meat was excluded from the WTO decision, the World Trade Organization has struck down country-of-origin labeling for world food products in the U.S.
The World Trade Organization ruled that country-of-origin labeling, included as law in the 2008 Farm Bill, is a technical barrier to free trade and therefore violates trade agreements the United States has with other countries including Mexico and Canada.