How much food does China import

Mostly secret: a lot of food comes from China

German manufacturers in the food sector are apparently producing or buying ingredients in China more often than expected. According to research by the newspaper DIE WELT, China products have long been standard in Germany, which many consumers are not aware of.

"If you buy fish fingers or frozen fillet in the discounter, you can assume that the raw material has been thawed, processed, refrozen and transported from there in China," says Matthias Keller, head of the Hamburg Fish Information Center (FIZ). In addition to fish or shrimp, the ingredients for jam, yoghurt, juice spritzer or chocolate often came from there.

The food industry is making a big secret out of it, according to the newspaper. This is understandable in view of the negative news from China, for example about genetically modified animal feed, pesticides or heavy metals. For years now, EU inspectors have not noticed any country of origin more often because of contaminated foods or foods containing prohibited substances.

Hygiene problems, toxins and lack of controls

It is true that imports fell by 6% last year due to stricter EU import rules, including fresh poultry or GMO rice. Nevertheless, the country leads the origin statistics of food that has become conspicuous in the EU by a large margin. The rapid alert system struck 435 times. However, since China delivers an extremely large amount to the EU, according to the EU officials not all loads can be checked, so the number of unreported cases is significantly higher, it is said.

The brand manufacturers of jams, juices and frozen fish are correspondingly silent about how much they import from China and how they control the quality of the raw materials, it continues. An employee of a large jam manufacturer confirmed to the newspaper that Chinese strawberries, for example, only cost a third of Spanish strawberries. The case of noroviruses in 2013, which infected 11,000 children and adults via Chinese frozen strawberries, showed that this can also backfire.

In addition to hygiene, critics such as Christiane Huxdorff from Greenpeacxe are also concerned about the lax use of chemicals. "In Chinese agriculture, pesticides are allowed that are banned in Germany. Other limit values ‚Äč‚Äčalso apply, so farmers are sometimes allowed to use more pesticides per kilogram of fruit or vegetables than in the EU," she told WELT.

Valuable certificates and labels?

Meanwhile, the consumer protection organization is annoyed by the lack of labeling. As with fruit juices, consumers do not recognize that fish have already been through several stages. Mostly caught in the Bering Sea off the coasts of Russia and Alaska, the fish goes frozen to China. There it is thawed, cut up and typically re-frozen in 7.5 kg portions. Then it is loaded onto a cargo ship and begins on its way to the country of destination - with papers from the Chinese health authorities on board, which are supposed to certify the place of catch, the place of processing and the harmlessness of the goods.

However, the critics doubt the correctness and informative value because nobody controls the Chinese companies. "The labeling requirements are vague. Some of the documents do not even have to state the type of fish in question," says US marine biologist Shelley Clarke. The certificates said nothing about the quality of the fish, whether it was contaminated with heavy metals or antibiotics.