Which food revelation was more shocking this week?

Did it blow you away that low levels of a fungicide that isn't approved in the U.S. were discovered in some orange juice sold here? Yawn. Or was it the news that Brazil, where the fungicide-laced juice originated, produces a good portion of the orange pulpy stuff we drink? Gasp!

While the former may have sent prices for orange juice for delivery in March down 5.3%, the latter came as a bombshell to some "Buy American" supporters. But that's not the only surprise lurking in government data about where the food we eat comes from.

About 16.8% of the food that we eat is imported from other countries, according to USDA, up from 11.3% two decades ago. Here are some other facts:

  • Not all juices are treated the same. About 99% of the grapefruit juice we drink is produced on American soil, while about a quarter of the orange juice is imported; more than 40% of that is from Brazil.
  • About half of the fresh fruit we eat comes from elsewhere. That's more than double the amount in 1975.
  • Some 86% of the shrimp, salmon, tilapia and other fish and shellfish we eat comes from other countries. That's up from about 56% in 1990.

Better communication (thank you, Internet) and transportation (thank you, faster planes) play a role in all the food importing. And in many cases, it's just become much cheaper to pay for shipping food from distant countries, where wages are often lower and expensive environmental rules often laxer than in the U.S.

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