China: Smithfield Farms Sale Endangers Your Health
The impending multibillion-dollar sale of Smithfield Farms, the world’s largest pork producer, to the Chinese company Shuanghui International Holdings presents a massive threat to China’s health. I sent a Chinese-language copy (see below) of the following letter to the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People's Republic of China to warn them of the consequences:
I am writing on behalf of the Physicians Committee—a group of 10,000 concerned doctors—to alert you to the dangers of ramping up pork production and consumption in China. The impending sale of Smithfield Farms to Shuanghui International Holdings further endangers the health of China’s citizens who already face diet-related disease epidemics.
It’s said that wealthy Chinese consumers hunger for “quality protein." But pork—or any meat, for that matter—is not the answer. In 2012, China consumed 52 million tons of pork loaded with diabetes- and cancer-inducing fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
One million Chinese died from diabetes in 2011. Today, more than 90 million people in China suffer from diabetes. By 2030, 130 million will be diagnosed with the disease. Diabetes is also a leading cause of heart attacks, blindness, and amputations, and shortens average lifespan by more than a decade.
Daily consumption of processed pork products, like bacon or hot dogs, can actually increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent. A review in the journal Diabetologia found that those who regularly eat processed meats increase their risk for diabetes by 41 percent.
The Smithfield sale will, without question, aggravate these already devastating statistics. Over the past 15 years, pork demand in the United States declined, because Americans will no longer put up with the these health risks associated with pork consumption.
Just as slumping tobacco sales in the United States led the tobacco giants to seek Asian markets, falling meat sales in the United States—down 6 percent between 2004 and 2010—have led American meat producers to court suitors elsewhere, namely China.
I urge you to think about the big picture. The Smithfield sale will only facilitate an increasing dump of one of America’s unhealthiest products into your country that, unfortunately, is poised to follow America’s race into obesity, diabetes, and shortened lifespan.
Neal Barnard, M.D.
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