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Whole Food Center


Just a warning, this article contains information that may be hard to read or may upset some readers.  It also contains graphic images. - Josh

To start out I just want to say that yes, we have problems in the United States that we need to address and that are horrific in and of themselves. Criticizing the practices of a government does not mean you have anything against the people of that country, any more than criticizing Trump means that you hate America.

China is the largest supplier of raw materials to the supplement industry by far. The vast majority of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and herbs all come from China. There are several reasons why we would not want to carry supplements made with ingredients from China.

We'll start with human rights.

China has over three million people in concentration camps:

 “The truth is these are nothing less than modern concentration camps, complete with armed guards, forced labor and barbed-wire fences. Inside, prisoners are indoctrinated with Communist Party propaganda, forced to renounce Islam, and have been forced to eat pork and drink alcohol in violation of their religious beliefs.”

They are expanding and building more and more of these camps:

“We have a saying in Hotan: If you go into a concentration camp in Luopu, you never come out,” said Adil Awut*, from Hotan City, who is now living overseas.”


“Yet, the buildup continues. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyzed 28 camps across Xinjiang and found they had expanded 465% in size since 2016, with the largest growth between July and September last year. Five camps in Hotan city and surrounding counties had at least doubled in size, with one camp increasing 2,469% between 2016 and 2018.”


In a village in Luopu county, almost every home has a plaque on the door marking it a “model red star family”. These are families who have met requirements, including demonstrating “anti-extremism thought” and a “sense of modern civilization”.

Then there is the forced harvesting of organs:

"The organs of members of marginalized groups detained in Chinese prison camps are being forcefully harvested — sometimes when patients are still alive, an international tribunal sitting in London has concluded.

“Falun Gong practitioners have been one — and probably the main — source of organ supply,” the judgment read, while “the concerted persecution and medical testing of the Uyghurs are more recent,” using a different spelling of the minority group's name. It warned, however, that the scale of medical testing of the Uighur Muslims meant they could end up being used as an "organ bank."

Harvesting organs while people are still alive and often without anesthesia or other pain relief is one of the cruelest practices imaginable. The list of human rights violations and awful practices by the Chinese government could be a book. Far too long of an article to write here. We chose not to show images of the victims from these camps due to their extremely graphic nature.

Traditional Chinese “medicine”, or TCM, is one of the worst offenders of animal rights. Often in this system, endangered species are hunted and killed for various parts that are claimed to have myriad health properties, usually centered around sexual potency or longevity. Other animals are tortured and live in squalid conditions to support this awful system.

Here are just a few of the horrific examples:

In the 1980s, bear bile farming began to be practiced as a way of constantly extracting bile for the duration of a bear’s life. Today more than 12,000 bears are believed to be kept on bear bile farms in China and Vietnam.


The extraction of bear bile from live bears causes unimaginable suffering and long term health problems for these physically and psychologically damaged animals. A number of techniques exist, all of which are particularly gruesome. While the techniques vary between Vietnam and China, each involves bears being kept in tiny cages. Extraction methods range from “free drip” where the bear suffers a hole in their gallbladder, to the insertion of permanent catheters. Crush cages and bears locked into metal jackets have now been made illegal in China – but are likely to still be used in poorer farms. Bears literally grow up in tiny cages to the point where their bodies have contorted to fit the bars. Most have few teeth left due to literally trying to chew their way out.


In China some farms have breeding program, but also rely on these being added to by poaching bears from the wild. Many bears can be caged as cubs and never released, suffering up to 30 years of continuous torture by bile extraction. Most farmed bears however are starved, dehydrated and suffer from multiple diseases and malignant tumours that ultimately kill them.

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Despite the massive cruelty, it is completely legal in China.

“Rhino horn is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, but increasingly common is its use as a status symbol to display success and wealth.  Poaching is now a threat in all rhino range states, however as South Africa is home to the majority of rhinos in the world, it is being heavily targeted. More than ever, field programmes are having to invest heavily in anti-poaching activities.

Poachers are now being supplied by international criminal gangs with sophisticated equipment to track and kill rhinos. Frequently a tranquiliser gun is used to bring the rhino down, before its horn is hacked off, leaving the rhino to wake up and bleed to death very painfully and slowly.”

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Lions and tigers are being born with painful deformities caused by inbreeding at industrial-style centres that harvest their body parts for a growing trade in traditional Asian “medicine”, investigators have revealed.

Big cats have been found with abnormalities to their faces, feet and legs, and may also suffer sight, hearing, breathing and chewing problems, a major report says.

The animals are among the thousands cooped up in tiny enclosures likened to factory farms, to be killed for their body parts, which are boiled or chopped up to make tiger bone wine and remedies for conditions from arthritis to meningitis.

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Many fishermen prefer to practice shark finning instead of bringing whole sharks to the market because the fins are far more valuable than the rest of the body, sometimes selling for as much as $500 a pound ($1,100 a kilogram). Instead, fishermen choose to keep just the shark fins—only one to five percent of a shark’s weight—and throw the rest of the shark away rather than have the less valuable parts take up space on the boat. The finned sharks are often thrown back into the ocean alive, where they do not die peacefully: unable to swim properly and bleeding profusely, they suffocate or die of blood loss.

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Any system of "medicine" that relies on using things created with this level of cruelty should be banned completely.

There are, of course, environmental issues. China is headed for an environmental collapse and calamity unlike anything we have ever seen:

"The first time Li Gengxuan saw the dump trucks from the nearby factory pull into his village, he could not believe his eyes. Stopping between the cornfields and the primary school playground, the workers dumped buckets of bubbling white liquid onto the ground. Then they turned around and drove right back through the gates of their factory compound without a word. . . . When the dumping began, crops wilted from the white dust, which sometimes rose in clouds several feet off the ground and spread over the fields as the liquid dried. Village farmers began to faint and became ill. . . .

Reckless dumping of industrial waste is everywhere in China. But what caught the attention of The Washington Post was that the Luoyang Zhonggui High-Technology Company was a "green energy" company producing polysilicon destined for solar energy panels sold around the world.

We are using too many raw materials to sustain [our] growth ... Our raw materials are scarce, we don't have enough land, and our population is constantly growing. Currently there [are] 1.3 billion people living in China, that's twice as many as 50 years ago. In 2020 there will be 1.5 billion ... but desert areas are expanding at the same time; habitable and usable land has been halved over the past 50 years ... Acid rain is falling on one third of Chinese territory, half of the water in our seven largest rivers is completely useless, while one fourth of our citizens do not have access to clean drinking water. One third of the urban population is breathing polluted air, and less than 20 percent of the trash in cities is treated and processed in an environmentally sustainable manner ... Because air and water are polluted, we are losing between 8 and 15 percent of our gross domestic product. And that doesn't include the costs for health ... In Beijing alone, 70 to 80 percent of all deadly cancer cases are related to the environment.

China's rivers suffer huge spills of all kinds of toxic chemicals - benzene, xanthogenate, aniline - every year. In north China, the Yellow River "is a catastrophe" and the 300-odd rivers that drain the North China Plain "are open sewers if they are not completely dry" in the words of Ma Jun, China's leading authority on the country's water crisis. According to a government report, the Yangtze River, the world's third longest, is seriously and irreversibly polluted. Long stretches are said to be in "critical condition," in places, too dangerous even to touch. Aquatic life has all but collapsed. Pollution and shipping wiped out China's legendary Yangtze Baiji dolphin while even common carp "are gasping for survival."  The 500-mile-long reservoir filling up behind the huge Three Gorges dam on the Yangtze qualifies as the world's biggest cesspool. In some areas groundwater is being irreversibly polluted as textile dyeing mills and other factories, looking to avoid fines for dumping their effluents into rivers, instead drill and pump them into the earth."

This is but a small fraction of all the environmental issues facing China. To list them all out would require a book longer than I could ever hope to write.


This polluted water, containing massive amounts of toxic chemicals (including some we have no idea about), is used to water crops, including “organic” food and herbs used in making supplements. While companies can test for a lot of contaminants, there are many many toxic ingredients in the water, air and soil that are simply not tested for because they are not even known they could be present. To give one example, many milk thistle supplements from China contain gasoline residue. Even if companies use the best quality control and testing procedures available, it would be impossible to test for all possible contaminants and ones that could be contaminating ingredients, that we do not even know are there.

Another issue is illegal price fixing. Chinese companies are supported (and sometimes mandated) by the government and will often sell products at a loss to put competitors in other countries out of business and then jack up the prices, once the other companies are gone. One great example of this is vitamin C:

"The defendants, Hebei Welcome Pharmaceutical Co. and an affiliated company, North China Pharmaceutical Group Corp. , said their conduct was required by Chinese regulations on export pricing. The Chinese government took the unusual step of filing papers in U.S. courts, saying the companies shouldn’t be penalized because their practices were indeed mandated by state industrial regulation."

China in the late 1990s established the Vitamin C Sub-Committee under the Commerce Ministry, which included manufacturers and exporters, to prevent market disorder, according to Mahr. The Commerce Ministry even issued regulations requiring the subcommittee to limit vitamin-C production and set export prices to promote industry self-discipline and facilitate the healthy development of Chinese exports. 

This is terrible for consumers and bad for an industry.

Quality Control and adulteration is a massive problem in the supplement industry, but especially with ingredients from China. While it may be a possibility to get clean ingredients from China, that possibility is slim to none. Yes, other countries, including the United States, do have some quality control and adulteration of raw material issues, none even come close to the problems with ingredients from China. There are too many issues and examples to go through all of them, but here are just a few:


  1. Adulteration of raw materials. Adulteration of raw materials can take many forms. One example is bilberry.  Many bilberry products contain no actual bilberry at all but are a combination of Chinese charcoal, amaranth red food dye (banned because of how dangerous it is) and black soybean hulls.

  2. Contamination of raw materials. Heavy metals such as lead are common contaminants in Chinese raw materials. Twenty-five samples were screened for the heavy metals arsenic, cadmium, and lead. Twenty contained at least one heavy metal. Eleven contained all three metals. In many cases the amount consumed per day, if the product dose instructions were followed, would result in heavy metal consumption that exceeded safe levels. Many cordyceps mushrooms actually have wires with lead inserted into the mushroom in order to increase the weight.

  3. Herbicides and pesticides. Tests conducted by Greenpeace East Asia on 36 samples of Chinese herbal products exported from China and collected from stores in London, Virginia (near Washington DC), Paris, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Milan, Toronto and Vancouver, have revealed the following:

  • 32 samples (nearly 90% of all the samples!) contained three or more kinds of pesticides. The record goes to Germany and Canada where the samples of honeysuckle contained 26 and 24 different types of pesticides respectively.

  • Almost half of all samples (17) contain pesticides listed as highly or extremely hazardous by the World Health Organisation (WHO)

  • Some 26 samples showed pesticide residue levels that exceeded what the European authorities consider the maximum level for safety (MRLs).

Pharmaceutical drugs are common contaminants also. One local health food store in our area (I cannot tell you which one, for obvious reasons) was even selling a Chinese herbal supplement that was found to have a prescription erectile dysfunction medication.

There is the transshipping issue as well, which you can learn more about in our honey article.

With all of these issues it is just not possible to guarantee that ingredients from China are pure, safe, properly tested and ethically produced. The only way forward is just to avoid all ingredients from China.

Supplement companies are not required to say where their raw materials come from, so you cannot know by looking at a label. Often companies do not know where they come from, because they are buying from middle men suppliers. 

That is why we are trying to work only with companies that either produce or buy their materials directly from the producers. Middle men are nothing but a cancer on this industry.

We are extremely proud to be going 100% China free and avoiding all of these ethical, health and safety issues. Products cannot truly be beneficial if they cause misery to animals and others as well as causing massive environmental damage.

It has not been easy trying to find all the products we needed that were 100% China Free, but we are really proud of the work we have done.

Look for this symbol below next to the products in our online store so you can know that it is 100% free of any Chinese Ingredients:


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