[Viewpoint]Cheap Chinese goods are making us ill‘On a sunny morning, when I get up from bed and think about what things in the world give me joy, the first thing that comes to mind is, of course, food.”
That is a quote from the eminent 20th century Chinese writer Lin Yutang. Food defines the quality of life he emphasizes in his book, “The Importance of Living.”
Lin Yutang said, “Our lives are not in the laps of the gods, but in the lap of our cooks.”
He was inferring that a person’s lifespan could be changed based on what he ate.
In that vein, he praised China’s food culture. “Chinese people usually do not discern food and medicine very much because they consider food to be a kind of nutritious substance.”
The Chinese are of the opinion that good food for the body is a medicine.
Since the Chinese people do not strictly divide food and medicine, Chinese herbal medicine has become a more distinctive medicine, and Chinese food has become more popular.”
However, Lin Yutang would have practically fainted if he saw the Chinese food and medicine of today. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration suspended the customs clearance of 107 food and pharmaceutical products imported from China in April.
Dried apples with ingredients that can cause cancer, frozen catfish with prohibited antibiotics, shellfish and sardines full of bacteria and mushrooms containing prohibited agricultural chemicals were found in large quantities.
Piles of cosmetics and health food supplements containing toxic substances and forged pharmaceutical products were also discovered.
It is alleged that Chinese importers and exporters do not discard harmful material and fake goods when the U.S. food and drug authority sends them back to China.
Instead, they send the goods back to the United States. They repeatedly send them to the United States, even if they get caught again by customs.
According to the Washington Post, that is the reason the U.S. market is flooded with toxic Chinese food and medicines.
The FDA prohibited the import of toothpaste made in China as of June 1, because it found traces of a poisonous chemical called Diethylene glycol, or DEG. DEG is a substance used to make coolants for cars.
It is said that Chinese companies used cheap DEG to get rid of the sour taste in toothpaste.
In Panama last year, about 50 people died after taking medicine for the common cold which contained DEG. The ingredients of the medicine were found to be Chinese products, too.
In the United States recently, cats and dogs that ate Chinese pet food containing toxic substances died in multitudes around the country.
As it has been revealed continuously that horrible substances fatal to humans and animals are found in Chinese agricultural products, toothpaste and so on, Americans now have a fear of Chinese products, just as much as Koreans do.
This is the reason the U.S. news media are carrying big reports about the safety problems of products made in China.
Nevertheless, the Chinese government seems not to care.
Recently in China, the court sentenced the head of the food and drug administration to death on charges of taking bribes, but there is no sign that the Chinese authorities have raised the standards of hygiene or strengthened their regulatory inspections on food.
In connection with the toothpaste problem, the Chinese side has even attacked the FDA, claiming that “the toothpaste is safe because it contains only a small amount of DEG.”
Despite all this, China suspended the customs clearance of French mineral water Evian a few days ago, saying that the amount of germs in the water exceeded safety standards.
Why doesn’t China apply such a strict standard to its own food and medicines?
Consumers from all around the world should step forward to correct this contradiction.
I mean, we must not leave it in the hands of our respective governments, but start a consumer movement against harmful Chinese foodstuffs.
Consumers should be suspicious of all products that are from China. We must let the Chinese realize that, even though they may attempt to deceive us, we can discern jade from stone and they cannot change harmful substances to something good.
We should not forget that the seductively cheap prices of Chinese products can make us sick.
There is a Chinese expression, “Inlay the letter kyung,” which means someone is heavily punished. The inlaying of kyung refers to a punishment by tattooing the letter kyung with black ink on a criminal’s forehead.
How about launching a campaign to consumers all over the world to find all of the bad Chinese companies in hiding and put them on a black list, just like the inlaying of the kyung?
*The writer is a Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Sang-il