Throughout Asia, the problem of food safety is becoming an ever larger problem. A Banglasdeshi magistrate recently found that all 176 tons of fish for sale in a local Hong Kong market contained formaldehyde , an indication of major problems in the Asian food supply. Also found were textile and tannery dyes being used to color sweets.

“Boric and benzoic acid, industrial dyes, fertilisers and pesticides, antibiotics, bad oil and sulphur dioxide are among the substances found in fresh and packaged foodstuffs throughout Asia.

Experts across the region are beginning to blame a range of illnesses, including rising cancer rates, liver and kidney ailments, stunted mental and physical development in children — and, in extreme cases, death — on adulterated food.”

Very high levels of pollutants in the waterways of Asia are finding their way into the food of the region with devastating results. Stephen Voss, a photojournalist, details the problems faced by those who live near the river Huai in China, one of the most poluuted rivers in the in the country.

“Shenqiu County, in the eastern part of Henan Province, has seen occurrences of stomach, liver, esophageal and intestinal cancer rise dramatically in the past fifteen years. Houses sit empty where whole families have died, villagers are bedridden with sicknesses they are too poor to have diagnosed and many continue to drink the polluted water because there is no other option. The majority of the 150 million people that live along the Huai River Basin are farmers, and depend on the river water to irrigate their crops. Unfortunately, the Huai is one of the most polluted stretches of water in the country.”

And China’s second largest river, the Yellow, is heavily polluted with untreated sewage and is 70 percent unfit for drinking or swimming. Part of the problem is that for those who pollute, it is cheaper to pay the fines than to prevent the pollution. And despite the fact that Chinese central government has made sustainable development a key facet of its policy, major development still continues at a furious pace along the rivers in China.

Though food safety has been a major issue in Asia for many years, it is only recently that awareness of the problem has spread to other countries as recent problems have come to light, such as the contaminated wheat gluten found in pet foods. As Asian imports make up a significant portion of our imported food in the US, it is all the more important that we inspect incoming food products far more carefully.


Mary McIndoe has been following stories of food safety and nutrition for years and writes about the issues on several different blogs, including the Mother Mary’s Guides to Better Living site.

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