Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Starfruit Poisoning Update

On April 22, our world food poisoning tour took us to a Chinese hospital, where a Malaysian tourist was lying in a coma after eating starfruit. Sixty-six year old Tang Gon Seang was one of at least 10 victims with similar symptoms.

Now, it has been suggested that the starfruit, which can be toxic to people suffering severe kidney failure, wasn't at fault in this case. A Malaysian naturopath, Professor Dr Dhilip Kumar, claims that Mr. Tang might be suffering from pesticide poisoning.

This past winter, more than 1,000 Japanese consumers fell victim to pesticide poisoning after eating dumplings (gyozo) imported from China, resulting in a massive recall and a major dispute between the two countries. Yesterday, the Japanese government reported finding pesticide in more dumplings produced by the same Chinese company. The report does not state clearly whether these were new, or were left over from the winter recall.

China has a chronic pesticide residue problem. A quick browse through the monthly FDA list of products refused entry into the United States will yield, without fail, at least a few Chinese items.

The Chinese introduced new standards for pesticide manufacturers this year, and are phasing out some of the more highly toxic pesticides, but they still have a long way to go. It's not enough to regulate the manufacture of pesticides. It's equally important to regulate the safe use of these toxic products.

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