China leads global garlic exports and US is a major consumer.
Senator Rick Scott from Florida, United States, has called on federal regulators to investigate the safety of garlic imports from China, specifically focusing on those suspected to be grown in unsanitary conditions, including areas with potential sewage contamination.
Addressing Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo in a letter, Mr Scott referenced the 1962 Trade Expansion Act, empowering the agency to launch inquiries into potential national security concerns associated with specific imports.
Mr Scott's concerns stem from allegations that some garlic farmers in China are using human waste and other forms of sewage to fertilize their crops. This practice, while not unheard of, raises questions about the safety and hygiene of the resulting garlic. Additionally, concerns have been raised about the use of bleach to whiten garlic, potentially masking contaminants or imperfections.
According to the BBC, China is the world's biggest exporter of fresh and chilled garlic, and the US is a major consumer. But the trade has been controversial for many years. The US has accused China of "dumping" garlic on the market at a below-cost price. Since the mid-1990s, it has levied heavy tariffs or taxes on Chinese imports in order to prevent US producers from being priced out of the market. In 2019, during the Trump administration, these tariffs were increased.
In his letter, Senator Scott acknowledges the prevailing concerns, yet he emphasizes a significant public health issue regarding the quality and safety of garlic cultivated in foreign nations, with particular emphasis on garlic production in Communist China.
"I write to request such an investigation into imports from Communist China of all grades of garlic, whole or separated into constituent cloves, whether or not peeled, chilled, fresh, frozen, provisionally preserved, or packed in water or other neutral substance, and the threat they pose to US national security. Food safety and security is an existential emergency that poses grave threats to our national security, public health, and economic prosperity," he wrote.