Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Too Much Heavy Metal

On October 10, a scholar from the Chinese Academy of Engineering said 12 mmt of grain are contaminated by heavy metals each year.

At a meeting in Guangzhou, Professor Luo Xiwen said, “Soil contamination is extremely serious in our country. Investigations show that heavy metal contamination is above limits on 300 million mu, one-sixth of the cultivated land."

According to Luo, environmental pollution, soil pollution already have become a worldwide issue. He said the United States has over 217,000 farms polluted with heavy metals. According to Professor Luo, many countries put a high priority on treating soil pollution issues and air and water pollution issues. [so China should too?]

As an engineer, Luo naturally recommends technological solutions. To really address the food safety issue, said Luo, producers, managers, merchants and consumers must be linked up and farm products need to be checked at each stage from breeding, production and sale to table. For example, a sensor can be used to monitor soil and water; a system can be set up to track the source of animal germplasm and feed resources and monitor disease.

Luo frets that the system relies on companies to check themselves. He thinks the government should engage in lots of testing.

In fact, there's already a lot of testing going on, but it's expensive and it's virtually impossible to test everything in a way that guarantees no toxins or illegal substances are present in food.

A bottle that contained a sample of pig feed that was tested for lead, moisture, protein, manganese, melamine and clenbuterol in the laboratory of the center for animal disease control in Chongqing.

The government's testing results report virtually no problems. In the first half of the year, Guangzhou's testing center detected no “lean meat powder” or illegal additives, and 97% of samples passed overall. The main substances detected were arsenic, manganese, copper, zinc and vitamin A.

The Guangzhou testers say there are four main factors causing feed products to fail tests. First is that toxins are easily introduced in rainy weather, long-distance transport and storage feed raw materials. Some feed companies treat materials to remove mold but not all the toxins are eliminated. Second, due to negligent management some producers set new product standards, but continue to use the old label. Third, due to unregulated labeling, some companies use organic arsenic preparations but they are not listed on the label. Fourth, mistakes by workers result in cross-contamination.

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