Sunday, August 05, 2007

Question Of The Week, 8/5/07

Good morning. We'll be going to our oldest Great-Grand-Daughters first Birthday party before I go to work this afternoon. I'd almost be willing to bet that at least three quarters of the gifts she gets today will have a label that reads, "Made In China". At least we'll know where it came from.

Now that I've mentioned China check out the article that was in my local paper this morning.

China, world at odds

Clinton Thomas
Agribusiness Reporter

Imagine that a new neighbor moved in next door with promises to spruce up the neighborhood and make the block a better place for everyone.

Some people would greet such a newcomer with open arms.

Now fast forward a few months. The new guy on the block has poisoned the local pets, handed out rotten food from his garden and provided the kids across the street with all the lead paint-coated toys they can handle.

Actions like that can turn open arms into closed fists.

China's move into the global economy, and the laundry list of product recalls that came with it, has put the country in the same situation. Poisoned pet food in March; tainted seafood in June; toys covered in lead paint last week; not to mention the products that failed to grab national attention.

In all, 60 percent of recalled products in the United States this year have come from China, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Such numbers have affected everyone from shoppers to meatpackers to companies that process grain.

effect on shoppers

The recalls have convinced some shoppers to check labels more closely.

"It's nice to know where something came from before you eat it," said Linda Neal as she filled her grocery cart. "The hard part is remembering to look."

Toys, clothing, and many other non-food products have carried country-of-origin labels for years. But food items, specifically meat, generally offer the consumer few clues about what country the product came from.

The 2002 Farm Bill was supposed to change that with a provision for country-of-origin-labeling, often referred to as the COOL law. Objections from meatpackers, retailers and producers have delayed implementation of the law, but new language in the 2007 Farm Bill could expedite the process.

effect on producers

Jeff Windett, executive vice president for the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, said many cattle producers feared the law would add costs that would hurt their operations. Ranchers would have to spend time on paperwork documenting where the animal was born and every time it had travelled in its lifetime. The larger the herd, the more work to do.

Mr. Windett said the new language is "about as good as we could hope for," though the association is still evaluating the legislation's language as it passes through Congress.

"Most consumers would like to know where their meat comes from," Mr. Windett said. "I think we would see a drastically different number if consumers saw that it would add 50 percent to the cost of their food."

The labeling situation is more complicated than it seems. For example, a pig processed at Triumph Foods that later becomes sausage at an Arrowhead Stadium tailgate could wind up with multiple countries of origin stamped on its label. Many pigs are born in Canada, then fattened on corn at feedlots in the United States before a meatpacker like Triumph buys them for slaughter.

In Triumph's case, the company sells most of its meat to an American processor, while the intestines go overseas where a Chinese company processes them into sausage casings, said Patt Lilly, Triumph's chief administrative officer.

The Chinese company sells some of the casings to a processor in the United States that uses them to make sausage. Even in the implausible event that the meat and casing from the same pig were reunited into one sausage, the label would carry three countries of origin: Canada, the United States and China.

Effect on processors

MGP Ingredients in Atchison, Kan., produces grain-based ingredients for food and personal care products, but does not reveal which companies buy its wheat gluten, said Steve Pickman, MGP's vice president of corporate communications.

When tainted wheat gluten from China led to a pet food recall in March, MGP put out a press release stressing that its gluten was safe and had nothing to do with the recall.

MGP's products improves the rising ability and texture of bakery goods and are used in other products like pet food. The Chinese gluten, however, was diluted with wheat flour and the industrial chemical melamine.

MGP processes more wheat gluten than any of its three American competitors. Even so, the company has felt the squeeze from the cheap Chinese competition.

"Until recently, we were running at only 20 percent of our capacity, simply because we cannot compete economically," Mr. Pickman said.

Imported wheat gluten now makes up 70 percent of the market in the United States. The United States imported about 52 million pounds from China in 2006, up from 22 million pounds in 2005. Mr. Pickman said companies have shown more interest in MGP's product after the Chinese recall, but the foreign product remains attractive to companies seeking cheap ingredients.

"The product might be cheaper, but are you getting what you pay for? Are you getting what you want?" Mr. Pickman asked.

This weeks Question Of The Week is. Would you support having "country-of-origin labels" on the food we eat even if it means you'd have to pay a little more at the check out counter?

I'll post my answer in the Comment Section Monday night.

Thanks go to:
The St. Joseph News-Press

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.


Blogger Praguetwin said...

Everything should have country of origin labels, or at least the product should make that information available online.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Would you support having "country-of-origin labels" on the food we eat even if it means you'd have to pay a little more at the check out counter?

Absolutely! In fact, I think that such labels are of critical importance.

Imported wheat gluten now makes up 70 percent of the market in the United States.

I've suddenly developed an allergy to wheat gluten. You've got me to wondering about the origin of that gluten.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Yes, we need to know where the food comes from. I can usually find labels for fresh food here but processed food is another story.

What is wheat gluten, I wonder, and why does it need to be in food at all?

5:11 PM  
Blogger David Schantz said...

First I want to thank you for stopping by to answer this weeks question. We all seem to agree on this one. If I have to replace my computer I'd like to find one that was made in the United States, but chances are I wouldn't have much luck finding one that I could afford. That isn't nearly as important as knowing where the food I'm bringing into the house is from. We feed some of it to our Grand-Kids, now we have one Great-Grand-Daughter that is starting to eat adult food. I want to know where it comes from. Yes, I support having "country-of-origin labels" on the food we eat even if it means I'd have to pay a little more at the check out counter.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

12:43 AM  
Blogger Praguetwin said...


I had an allergy to all types of gluten, but it went away. Almost unheard of a few decades ago, it is affecting nearly 1% of Americans last I checked.

More likely that bunk gluten is the toxins in the system killing the enzymes that process the gluten.

Gluten is the glue in wheat, barely, oats, etc. that makes it stick together. It is what gives bread that lovely elasticity. It is used as an additive to give other foods that wonderful elasticity that we all love.

It is what makes licorice stretch.

It made me itch for about 3 years.

2:48 PM  
Blogger Katherine Thayer said...

All made of China is a lot cheaper. However, the quality of the product? Below Average.

3:32 AM  

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