Testing Athletes for Chinese Food

Amid the many Chinese food-safety stories of the last year, there’s been an undercurrent of concern about what athletes will be fed during the upcoming Beijing Olympics. China has responded by designating 36 companies as the exclusive food suppliers for athletes, according to the BBC. The food, grown on low-chemical farms, will be tracked “from farm to fork” with a GPS system.

The BBC visited a farm north of Beijing and saw how worried the Chinese are: They’re cracking down on hair. The reporter watched a worker who, as she packed vegetables, “suddenly realised she was not wearing the hat that keeps her hair away from the vegetables. She quickly put it on before farm manager Lin Yuan could see her.” I’m telling you, the USDA’s just got to start testing for hair in imported food. “Some of the foreign media are biased against Chinese vegetables,” the farm manager says.

Foreign teams are worried. An official with the Australian Olympic Committee calls food safety “the number one issue facing our [Olympic] teams.” In a story earlier this month on how the United States Olympic Committee is addressing food safety—for starters, having Tyson ship “25,000 pounds of lean protein to China about two months before the opening ceremony”—the New York Times quotes a caterer working for the USOC who visited China last year. He picked up a half breast of chicken measuring 14 inches: “We had it tested and it was so full of steroids that we never could have given it to athletes. They all would have tested positive.” It almost sounds like an urban myth.