Food safety scandals have left Canadian shoppers walking away from made-in-China foods altogether. But it is a challenge to accurately identify the country of origin for imported foods from China, says Bob Mok.
This article is the continuation of a previous one on the same subject. See link here:
On the internet, netizens are perpetuating a methodology for identifying foodstuffs coming from Mainland China and other countries. They suggested that by reading the first three digits of the barcodes, one can identify the country of origin through a listing obtainable from the Internet. This method is supposed to help consumers to identify and avoid purchasing foodstuffs produced in China. To verify if this method is indeed true and accurate, I went into a Chinese grocery store and did some checking.
The items I inspected came from Mainland China, Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, USA, and Canada. Of the twenty-five (25) items examined, only eleven (11) or less than half of them have the correct barcode digits matched to their countries of origin. A “product of country” or “made in country” declaration is missing from six (6) of the items contrary to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) requirements.
Of the eight (8) items originating from Mainland China, only four (4) can be identified by the first 3 digits of the barcode as originating from China. Only two (2) of four (4) Taiwan products are identified with the correct GS1 barcode digits. As mentioned before, the first three digits of the (Global Standards one) GS1 Prefix only identify the national GS1 Member Organization to which the manufacturer is registered and it is not necessarily a reliable indicator of where the product is actually produced.
在食品未有明确标注原产国时，消费者还可以尝试在产品包装上印制的说明中查找生产厂家地址（如果有的话）。但是由于许多食品的包装上也会标注经销代理商地址，因此切勿将二者混淆。这些进口食品的大部分经销代理商都位于加拿大或香港，相关公司的名称和地址通常都会跟在“imported by”、“distributed by”或“packaged by”等词的后面。
When a country of origin is not clearly stated, consumers can also try to locate the factory address (if available) in the printed area of the package. Do not confuse that with the distribution Agents’ addresses as they are also present on many packages. A majority of these agents are located either in Canada or Hong Kong. These company name and addresses are typically placed behind the words “imported by”, “distributed by”, or “packaged by”.
The educated consumers will have to spend some time reading the packages to arrive at a conclusion before they make their purchases. Remember the brand name accurately as many impersonating products will use similar characters or phonetically similar characters as their own brand name. Don’t just simply remember the shape of the container, its design and pattern. There is no easy way to quickly identify the country of origin for some foodstuffs when the manufacturer deliberately disguises it.
One useful tip to remember is that Mainland products are sold at a price cheaper than similar products from other areas. This is particularly true when it comes to buying Mooncakes just prior to the middle-autumn festival. The packaging is almost identical to famous Hong Kong brands but the huge price differentials are eye-catching and you cannot possibly miss that. Consumer left Mainland produced mooncakes alone as they still remember the recycle schemes used years ago when unconsumed mooncakes were recollected and the lotus pastes inside were stripped out and reused in the following year’s production!
In summary, the use of the barcode digits to identify and determine if products are coming from Mainland China (or any other country) is not accurate due to the inherent weaknesses within the registration system. The registered company can be just an office address in United States, Canada, or anywhere else.
Consumers want to have “peace of mind” when purchasing food items. China has a long way to go to re-establish confidence with its own citizens and others overseas when it comes to processed food items.
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