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Turn About is Fair Play: Is China Banning Raisins as Weapons of Mass Destruction?


It has been 20 years since the sunglass-clad California raisins danced their way into our hearts to the tune of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” Now, China says better our hearts than our stomachs.

Turning the tables on U.S. complaints about tainted pet food and other products from China, that country’s food safety agency claims that its inspectors have found bacteria and sulfur dioxide in U.S.-exported raisins and health supplements. (Sulfur dioxide is a common preservative used in dried fruit.) A June television news report cites a brief notice on the agency’s web site that the tainted products have been returned or destroyed. There are no details about how the inspections were conducted, or when.

In the meantime, of course, U.S. complaints about Chinese exports have expanded to monkfish containing dangerous levels of pufferfish toxins, drug-laced frozen eel, and juice made with unsafe color additives.

As if we needed further evidence of globalization, this raises the specter of some gargantuan international FDA sorting through the foodstuffs and health products of the world market. Can you imagine the matrix of unscientific evidence and serendipitous standards that could classify a product as “safe for the U.S. but not for China,” or “safe for Iraq but not for Venezuela.” It’s a sobering thought, given the difficulty we have getting our own regulatory agencies to adhere to rigorous research standards in their roles as watchdog for American consumers.

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