Thursday, July 5, 2007

Forget the omeg-3 fatty acids, imported fish may be dangerous to your health

For years healthcare professionals have urged us to eat more seafood.

Seafood is a good source of high-quality protein, low in saturated fat, and rich in many vitamins and minerals. It is the source of most of the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, found in the American diet, credited with helping reduce the risk of heart disease. It is also thought that infants whose mothers consume EPA and DHA during pregnancy may gain benefits such as longer gestation and better vision and brain development. But the New York Times recently reported that more and more of the fish we eat is dangerous because it is contaminated with dangerous chemicals and bacteria.

Most of us don't realize that 80% of the seafood we consume is imported. And more and more of it is from China whose seafood imports have soared from about $550 million in 2001 to $1.9 billion last year.

According to the Times much of the fish we import from China is produced on fish farms infested with fish excrement and bacteria or caught in highly polluted waters in China's heavily industrialized coastal regions.

While twenty-two percent of our imported fish comes from China, 60 percent of the seafood shipments that were refused entry by American regulators came from China.

Now the Food and Drug Administration has announced it will restrict a number of Chinese seafood companies from selling certain types of seafood in the United States because regulators keep finding Chinese imports contaminated with carcinogens and excessive antibiotic residues.

The list of contaminated fish from China is alarming. In May alone, regulators tagged “filthy frozen scallops”; catfish, eel and shrimp laced with banned chemicals; unsafe additives; pesticides; and cancer-causing agents.

This is the dark side of globalization.

Free market zealots continue to dogmatically cling to David Ricardo's 18th century theory of comparative advantage despite a preponderance of evidence that global "free trade" has cost millions of American jobs (2 million to China alone); undermined hourly wages even as productivity has soared; contributed to the growth of sweatshops, child labor, and a growth in international poverty. Nobel prize winning economist and former World Bank VP, Joseph Stiglitz, notes: "A growing divide between the have and have nots has left increasing numbers in the third world in dire poverty, living on less than a dollar a day. ..the actual number of people living in poverty has actually increased by almost 100 the same time that total world income actually increased by an average of 2.5 percent annually; and now we are learning that global products from fish to toys to toothpaste fail to meet minimum health and safety standards.

The global economy is designed to serve the interests of financial elites and global corporations who scour the global in search of high rates of profit and low cost production. Those who have questioned the globalization's failure to establish even minimal labor, health and safety and environmental standards, cornerstones of every modern national economy, have been attacked as protectionists or worse. Now the chickens, or in this case contaminated fish, are coming home to roost!

For more about Chinese seafood imports read the NY Times article.


Helen Berman said...

Yet another case for buying locally.

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