Athletes to bring US food to China

March 10, 2008

by Roz Kohls

US Olympians are so worried about the food in China that they are bringing their own. And they have good reason to be worried.

According to Ben Shpigel of the Human Rights Torch Relay news site Feb. 9, a caterer working for the US Olympic Committee, found a 14-inch-long, half chicken breast in a Chinese supermarket. It was enough to feed a family of eight, said caterer Frank Puleo of Staten Island, who has traveled to China to handle food-related issues.

“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,” Puleo said.

More than 600 athletes will be going from the US to the summer games in Beijing this year. They are not just worried about steroids either.

“In recent years, some foods in China have been found to be tainted with insecticides and illegal veterinary drugs, and the standards applied to meat there are lower than those in the United States,” Shpigel said.

A restaurant in China was found to be using industrial sodium nitrate, instead of regular salt. It killed several customers and sent dozens to the hospital, according to the Xinhua News Agency Feb. 25.

Rivers used to water crops in China are so polluted, toxic materials are bound to get into the food.

The Japanese athletes are even more afraid of eating Chinese food than the US athletes. Some Japanese believe the pesticide-laced dumplings shipped to Japan from China, according to the Guardian UK, were purposely poisoned at the end of January. The packaging was printed in Japanese, so the factory workers knew where the dumplings were going, the Japanese victims said.

As a result, the US Olympic Committee will ship 25,000 pounds of lean protein from US sponsors to China. The food will be prepared at the US athletes’ own facility 20 minutes from the Olympic Green. “The security is so tight, that there is pre-screening (of the food) before it even gets to me,” said Terri Moreman, the committee’s associate director of food and nutrition services.

Of course, the Chinese are outraged that the US Olympians are bringing their own food. Whoever caters the food at the Olympics makes big money. There is a rumor in Japan that the Chinese intend to have customs confiscate all the food at the border.

If this is true, and the athletes are forced to eat local Chinese fare, we should question whether we really want to put our people at risk for this event.