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Ginger Laced with Pesticides Recalled: China's Latest Potentially Deadly Export

Jul 31, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP Fresh ginger laced with pesticides is the latest Chinese import to face a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recall.  The tainted ginger was discovered by California inspectors over the weekend, and on Monday, the state issued a warning against eating the product imported from China.  The FDA ordered the recall after it was discovered that the ginger had been shipped to stores in California, Michigan, Oregon, Louisiana and Washington.

California health officials found potentially harmful levels of the pesticide aldicarb sulfoxide in fresh ginger from China that was distributed by the Christopher Ranch food company in Gilroy, California.  The ginger was sent to stores in boxes labeled to show it came from China, but there is a chance that it was placed in store produce bins without labels.   For this reason, California authorities are warning people not to eat any fresh ginger unless they can be certain it did not come from China.  

When ingested in small amounts, aldicarb sulfoxide causes nausea, headache and blurred vision for about six hours.  However, if large amounts are consumed, the pesticide can also cause diarrhea, sweating, muscle stiffness, breathing difficulties and even death.

Last year, the US imported 32,000 tons of ginger, almost half of it from China.  Those imports have been a problem before.  In the past several months, port inspectors in Seattle have turned away several Chinese ginger shipments because they were tainted with pesticides.  A spokesman for the Christopher Ranch food company told the San Jose Mercury News that the company does grow its own ginger in Hawaii, but that supply is only available for part of the year.  This ginger came from the Chinese company Modern Trading.  The spokesman said that Christopher Foods has worked with Modern Trading for years, but never had a problem.  Christopher Foods also imports garlic from China.

The ginger is just the latest in an array of Chinese products that have been found to pose a hazard to consumers.   Others have included tires, wheat gluten tainted with melamine that was used in pet food, contaminated toothpaste, defective Graco infant swings, and Thomas the Tank Engine toys made with lead paint.  According to a recent New York Times report, Chinese imports have accounted for more than 60-percent of all product recalls this year.  

The publicity surrounding the dangerous products has many calling on the FDA to step up its scrutiny of imported foods.  Currently, the FDA inspects only 1-percent of food imports.  For its part, the agency has said in the past that they try to make the most of limited resources by targeting inspections to foods produced in countries that have a high rate of problems.

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