Impure Imports

The reasons to eat local keep piling up, as it increasingly seems like the only way to not get poisoned. Sure, you may be limited in the vegetable department to nothing but asparagus for a few months this spring if you stick to a truly local, 100-mile-style diet; but the alternative is often imported produce, which is frighteningly unregulated in this country. As the AP reports:

Just 1.3 percent of imported fish, vegetables, fruit and other foods are inspected — yet those government inspections regularly reveal food unfit for human consumption.

Frozen catfish from China, beans from Belgium, jalapenos from Peru, blackberries from Guatemala, baked goods from Canada, India and the Philippines — the list of tainted food detained at the border by the Food and Drug Administration stretches on.

The average American diet contains about 260 pounds of imported foods each year (including single ingredients and more processed stuff)—that’s about 13 percent of our grub.

I love my foreign-born fruits and snacks as much as the next hound, and I’m always wary of food-based xenophobia. But one passage in the article has me mentally narrowing the list of imported items I’ll try:

Consider this list of Chinese products detained by the FDA just in the last month: frozen catfish tainted with illegal veterinary drugs, fresh ginger polluted with pesticides, melon seeds contaminated with a cancer-causing toxin and filthy dried dates.

That word filthy is especially off-putting—and also vague enough to inspire a little paranoia.