Oftentimes imported food is appealing to Americans due to claims of higher quality ingredients and fresher produce. Now the reality of this appeal has been challenged after a new report found that only 2% of foreign food imported to the U.S. is actually inspected. According to the analysis, the 24 access ports based in LA receive food shipments from China ranging from Cambodian rice to tea biscuits. In 2010, around 3,500 of these food shipments were rejected due to being contaminated, unsafe, mislabeled, or poisonous.
On a national scale, the FDA turned down 16,000 food shipments out of nearly 10 million that were imported throughout 320 ports. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the FDA has not been adequately examining incoming food shipments, with only 2% of foreign food imports being physically inspected in 2010. This year, only 1.6% of all imported food shipments are expected to examined by the FDA, and even less next year.
As the number of properly inspected food imports dwindle, the overall number of food imports have skyrocketed over the last decade. The FDA expects 24 million food import shipments to enter the United States this year, as opposed to 6 million only a decade ago.
Which food imports receive proper inspection is primarily determined by a computer system called PREDICT (Predictive Risk-based Evaluation for Dynamic Import Compliance Targeting). Used at 70% of US import operations spanning air, sea, and land ports, it analyzes a number of industrial factors to determine the riskiest imports. Of course it is not entirely accurate, and can only make an informed guess.
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What this means is that the majority of foreign food imports, about 98% or more, goes without physical inspection and onto grocery shelves nationwide. One major concern of FDA officials is missed fecal contamination within the food supply. A new technology is being developed that can essentially smell the food to ensure that it does not contain harmful bacteria, feces, or live viruses.
One way to avoid consumption of tainted food imports is to purchase locally grown organic food products and produce, which will in turn support the domestic economy and ensure that your food is free of health-damaging contaminants. In addition, be sure to look for the organic seal and other labels such as “GMO-free” and “No artificial ingredients” when shopping for healthy food products.