What foods can put your family at risk?

By Eryka Washington , Consumer Reporter, Fill-in anchor, ewashington@wkmg.com
Published On: May 29 2014 11:15:00 PM EDT
Updated On: May 29 2014 11:44:07 PM EDT

You shop, you buy and you eat with little regard for where all that food comes from. But what is the price of cheap food?

ORLANDO, Fla. -

You shop, you buy and you eat with little regard for where all that food comes from.

But what is the price of cheap food?

Dr. Aleda Roth knows and she says you may have no idea you're putting your family at risk.

"I realized we potentially have a ticking time bomb on our hands," Roth said.

For 8 years, Roth traced the origins of the food we buy and what country the actual ingredients were grown.

She's a nationally known supply chain expert and a prestigious research fellow at Texas A&M, who says she found the same trend in every study.

"I found more and more ingredients were coming from China," Roth said.

Roth said we're talking about fruits, vegetables, fish and all sorts of ingredients grown in Chinese fields, raised in Chinese waters. And Roth said that could expose us to the pollution and industrial waste there.

She points to arsenic found in apple juice and lead in rice. Roth said the potentially dangerous toxic elements could taint the foods we eat. In fact, less than 2 percent of the imported food is tested for anything before it makes it to our store shelves.

"It may be that there are some parts of china that are not polluted, but we don't know. Why are we playing Russian roulette with our health," Roth said.

With this information in hand, Local 6 started investigating and checking labels in stores across Orlando.

Mom Kim Manley was surprised to see name brand peaches, pears, oranges and all types of frozen vegetables labeled product of China. We found fish, shrimp and all sorts of seafood.

We even found many "organic" products were actually grown and shipped from China.

"That's how they water it and fertilize it. Who's over there making sure that's organic in China," Manley said.

But the label doesn't always tell the whole story. Federal laws require manufacturers to label fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables with the country they're from. But those labels are not required for most other food we buy. And don't let an American flag on the package fool you.

"If it said "Made in the United States," it doesn't matter," Roth said. "They could get their ingredients from any place."

An American flag on some frozen fried shrimp says it's processed in the U.S., but when Local 6 looked at the company's website it reveals as much as 25 percent of the shrimp could actually be raised in China or three other Asian countries. You'd never know what's in the box you bought.

In Roth's study, she took 1,000 random food products and called each company to see where the ingredients actually came from. She said only a handful would even tell her.

"Why are companies not being transparent? Don't people have a right to know what's going into their bodies?" Roth said.

Your best bet to tell where a food product comes from is to look for "Product of..." statement on the label, just saying "Processed" or "Made" in the U.S.A. doesn't mean the same as "Product of U.S.A."

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