Maggots in the pasta: Europe screens tainted Chinese food

Cypriot inspectors found arsenic in the frozen calamari. The Italians discovered maggots in the pasta. There were glass chips in the pumpkin seeds bound for Denmark, and Spanish regulators blocked a shipment of frozen duck meat because of forged papers. It has been a rough year for Chinese food exports to Europe.

At least German kids can eat their Chinese strawberries again.

Health authorities have given the all-clear after a recent poisoning of 11,000 children at hundreds of schools in Berlin and four other German states. A norovirus outbreak from a shipment of frozen Chinese berries led to severe diarrhea and vomiting, and 30 people were hospitalized.

German consumer agencies traced the outbreak to a single batch of berries. School cafeterias in eastern Germany were primarily affected, and improper food handling at industrial kitchens was seen as a possible cause.

The agencies’ strawberry statement did not identify the source country, although a spokesperson for the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety told Food Production Daily that the berries “all came from the same batch imported from China.”

And a news report said the strawberries were grown, harvested and frozen in Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius, in Shandong Province.

It was the latest episode in China’s ongoing food-safety nightmare, which Rendezvous has chronicled, and the German newspaper Der Spiegel has now followed up with an investigation of Chinese food exports to Europe.

Those exports are growing widely and rapidly. The newspaper said Chinese food exports to Europe nearly doubled between 2005 and 2010. In Germany, food imports from China are up 26 percent since 2009.

Zhou Li, a food-safety expert and lecturer at Renmin University in Beijing, told Der Spiegel that Chinese farmers used to eat the same food that they grew and sold.

“But now that they are aware of the harmful effects of pesticides, fertilizers, hormones and antibiotics,” the article said, paraphrasing Mr. Zhou, “they still produce a portion of their farm products for the market and a portion for their own families. The only difference is that the food for their families is produced using traditional methods.

“In fact, many wealthy Chinese have bought their own farms so as not to be dependent on what’s available in supermarkets,” the story said, citing Mr. Zhou. “There are also reports of special plots of land used to produce food exclusively for senior government officials.”

Pink slime saga boosts Australian beef exports

 Like mad cow disease, although on a much smaller scale, Australian cattle exporters are reaping the benefits of the pink slime controversy in the U.S.

AAP reports beef and veal exports to the U.S. are expected to increase by 28 per cent to 205,000 tonnes in 2011/12, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) said in its June quarter commodities report.

ABARES attributed U.S. demand for imported beef to reduced cattle slaughter and an ongoing fall-out over reports in March that 70 per cent of ground beef sold in American supermarkets contained pink slime – a cheap meat filler treated with an antibacterial agent.

But beef exports to Indonesia are likely to fall by about 27 per cent to 530,000 head during the same period, after footage of cattle being treated inhumanely at local slaughter houses was aired on ABC television.

Public outcry over the footage led to Australian live exports to Indonesia being suspended for a month.

The live trade resumed after stronger auditing requirements were put in place, but exports have struggled to recover, with Indonesia now pushing for self-sufficiency in the beef market.

Local is worst: Canadians export food that’s tested, keep the rest for home and blame consumers if they get sick

A B.C. meat processing plant that covered up lab results revealing a sample of its product was contaminated with a deadly E. coli strain will not have to test for the bacteria now that it’s provincially regulated.

Pitt Meadows Meats Ltd. said it made a business decision to abandon its federal licence because it incurs higher costs than are necessary because the company doesn’t export.

Regulations require federally licensed plants to report positive findings of E. coli O157 strain to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

But testing for E. coli O157 isn’t mandatory in a provincially regulated plant.

Joseph Beres, inspection manager for the Canada Food Inspection Agency, said federal and provincial plants are committed to the same health and sanitation standards and use the same inspectors. But he said the presence of the deadly bacteria might only be discovered if people become sick.

Ritinder Harry, a spokesman for the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, told CBC News, apparently with a straight face and acting like he’d never heard of the U.S. zero tolerance policy for E. coli O157:H7 that has been in place since 1994, and the whole Mike-Taylor-it-doesn’t-get-us-anywhere-to-blame-consumers-for-O157-bit, also back in 1994, that provincial meat processing facilities are not required to regularly test for pathogens because "the likelihood of finding a contaminated sample is very low,” and that the best way to eliminate risk of being infected is to follow basic food safety rules, including using a thermometer to ensure the meat is properly cooked, avoiding cross contamination with raw meat or raw meat juices in the kitchen, and promptly refrigerating meat regardless of whether it is cooked or uncooked.

This isn’t some Greasy Jungle, Metropolis Noir, with funeral home sandwiches and coffee. People get sick.

The Tragically Hip – Greasy Jungle
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