When Donald J. Trump announced his candidacy in 2015 he created quite a stir with many of his statements. He spoke a great deal about securing borders, fixing the economy and especially the effects of China on the United States. Regardless of whether you agree with his plans and ideas of how to tackle these issues, you have to agree that these issues really do exist, especially the influence of China. The financial power of China overpowers not only American consumer good production, but also greatly affects the competitive of US fisheries.
One of the major secrets to China’s fiscal strength is its over-abundance of very cheap labor. There is such a difference in labor between the US and China that it has greatly changed the way the US seafood industry works. Previously it was ideal to catch the fish in Alaska, fully process it in Alaska (i.e. filleting), and then ship it down to the mainland US where it would be consumed. Today it is just as common to catch the fish in Alaska, freeze it, ship it to China, process the seafood there, and then ship it to the mainland US for sale. This difference makes seafood producers millions of extra profits every year. This is common for all sorts of Alaskan seafood, including Alaskan Pollock, Pacific Cod, and especially Salmon.
The first issue that comes with these practices is that it weighs hard on Alaskan seafood processors and their employees. For the last two decades the Alaskan seafood industry has been struggling to stay afloat in the global market due to China’s involvement. Many fishermen for one end up selling to exporters since they can afford a higher price for their raw material, leaving local Alaskan workers out of a job. This practice also weighs heavily on Alaskan producers who then struggle to sell their clean and additive free product to grocery stores, since many retailers prefer the cheaper products from China to gain a competitive edge on the market for themselves, and also get a higher profit margin. The issues also do not stay within the boundaries of economics and profits; they also stretch out towards consumer health and safety.
When seafood gets to China the rulebook for food processing changes dramatically. Chinese processors have the ability and freedom to use certain practices that are outright banned in the United States. Chinese seafood processors often will soak the seafood they receive in additives, one of which is Sodium Tri-Polyphosphate (STPP). The purpose of STPP is to soak up water into the cellular structure of the fish. This practice can lead to very deceptive sales, even if the fish is thawed. With over-glazing a fillet’s true weight can be seen when it is thawed, but with a STPP soak, the evidence only shows when you cook it. Seafood that has been soaked will often seem more affordable per pound, but when you remove the water weight added to it, you are quite often left with a more expensive product and less fish than you originally thought. Being cheated out of some fish or money is the least of your worries with STPP, as it can have affects on the consumer’s health.
STPP is rated a Blue 2 on the NFPA 704 diamond, labeling the hazards within a container. These marking state that exposure can lead to incapacitation and/or long term effects. A reaction to STPP can occur from breathing in the vapors while cooking, or even from eating the foods that have been soaked in them. Being exposed to STPP has also been linked to irritation of the skin, eyes, digestive and respiratory system. It has also been know to aggravate inflammation in people who suffer from conditions such as asthma and autoimmune syndromes.
Through the years the trend of pushing out clean Alaskan products has greatly increased. Alaskan processors are slowly going out of business or having to greatly cut operations and workers in order to survive. The biggest repercussion though with all of this is the health issues hat can arise with the consumption of Sodium Tri-Polyphosphate soaked foods that come from being processed in China. The only question that arises is whether or not consuming such processed foods is acceptable as our new norm, or whether Donald Trump is right when he says that China’s control of our markets is a danger to our society.
Disclaimer: This article is not meant to endorse any political candidate, but is meant to inform consumers and start conversation on issues that surround the country.
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