To avoid having to eat the products of China’s rapidly increasing industrialized and chemical-based food system, government officials and others in positions of privilege get “tegong” (meaning “special supply”) food–food produced naturally, organically (and discreetly) and especially for them. As this article in the Los Angeles Times describes it:
Organic gardening in China is a hush-hush affair in which the cleanest, safest products are largely channeled to the rich and politically connected.
Many of the nation’s best food companies don’t promote or advertise. They don’t want the public to know that their limited supply is sent to Communist Party officials, dining halls reserved for top athletes, foreign diplomats, and others in the elite classes. The general public, meanwhile, dines on foods that are increasingly tainted or less than healthful — meats laced with steroids, fish from ponds spiked with hormones to increase growth, milk containing dangerous additives such as melamine, which allows watered-down milk to pass protein-content tests.
“The officials don’t really care what the common people eat because they and their family are getting a special supply of food,” said Gao Zhiyong, who worked for a state-run food company and wrote a book on the subject.
Athletes receive tegong pork, the article reveals, because the growth hormone residues in factory-raised pigs were causing false positives in their steroid testing. Unsurprising to me. As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, a recent study found 20% of the pork sampled in U.S. grocery stores to be contaminated with the rapactomine, a pork growth hormone.
We’re exporting a lot more food to China these days than we’re importing. But if you buy seafood, garlic, apple juice or honey in a grocery store, there’s a good chance it came from China. And an increasing amount of the food we export to China is processed there and then returned to us. We can be sure none of it is going into the tegong system.
We’re fortunate to live in a country where wholesome natural food is not reserved only for those in positions of power and privilege. But our supply of good food depends upon the continued support of consumers. The existence of something like the tegong system is evidence that we ought not take for its availability for granted.