How safe is Chinese garlic?

As Chinese-grown products go, pretty safe. But apparently itís not safe enough for Trader Joe's. It's one of several Chinese imports that the Monrovia-based chain will remove from its shelves. The decision, according to a company statement, seems to be based on customer fears. "We feel confident that all of our products from China meet the same high quality standards that we set for all of our products," the statement said. In case you don't know, China produces 75 percent of the world's supply of garlic (the U.S. imported 138 million pounds last year). Forget about Gilroy being the garlic capital - California farmers can't compete on price. They only produce about 2 percent of the world's supply. So is Chinese garlic any more dangerous than the American stuff? Here's a Washington Post story from last year:

FDA records show that since 1994, fresh and processed garlic have been targeted for automatic detention and surveillance. Numerous shipments from several companies -- five Chinese, one Canadian and one Argentine -- were refused because of insects or insect damage, mold or filth between 1994 and 1996. The Canadian firm had repacked Chinese garlic and shipped it, peeled, in five-pound jars. Thirteen fresh garlic shipments from China were refused at California ports. A Washington Post search of nearly 900 FDA "refusal actions" from May 2006 to April 2007 turned up 18 shipments of garlic products from several countries. Some examples of rejections: from China, chili garlic sauce, because manufacturing information was not provided; from Canada, garlic paste, made in unsanitary conditions and inadequately labeled; from Argentina, "filthy" garlic bulbs.


Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, says that garlic has natural inhibitors against pesticides. Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University and author of "What to Eat," says the skin also protects somewhat against pesticides, if any were used. "Pesticide residues can be removed by washing," she says. E. coli and other bacteria on fresh garlic would probably be only on the exterior, Nestle says. She and Doyle agree that besides peeling and discarding the skin, the one sure-fire way to kill off microorganisms is to turn up the heat.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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