For many people, buying American-made, American-manufactured goods is an important way to boost the country’s economy and ensure items are more ethically sourced. This is especially important when it comes to the food we put into our bodies.
The German supermarket chain Aldi obviously has strong European roots, but you might be wondering: Does Aldi buy food from China, the number one exporter of goods in the world? Let’s take a look.
Does Aldi Buy Food From China?
While most of the food sold in Aldi US stores is manufactured in the United States, Aldi continues to source seafood from China. Although Aldi’s partnership with Chinese seafood factories was made public in 2017 to significant criticism, the supermarket chain did not release any official public statements on the matter.
This is a complex subject, so let’s break it down, including what Aldi foods do not come from China, what foods do, how you can tell, and whether or not any other Aldi products appear Chinese-sourced. Read on!
What Aldi Foods Come From China?
Some of Aldi’s seafood does still come from China, though Aldi’s corporate website has been worded in such a way as to suggest that it does not or that the company only partners with highly ethical factories.
Aldi’s partnership with Chinese seafood manufacturers came to light in 2017 when it was revealed that some of the factories from which Aldi sourced their Sea Queen label seafood employed North Koreans under what could only be described as “modern-day slavery.”
North Koreans working on loans from their government in China faced torturous labor conditions, with most of their pay confiscated and funneled into North Korea’s nuclear missile program.
While several other Western companies caught up in the scandal made blanket statements about how this was unacceptable and unethical, from my research, Aldi’s corporate HQ remained silent on the matter then and has not made any comment since.
Instead, Aldi US’s corporate website touts the “Simple. Sustainable. Seafood.” label on its Fremont Fish Market products.
The site further declares:
Our approach is based on sourcing our fish and shellfish products from responsibly managed fisheries and farms that have minimal impacts on the wider marine environment and are committed to human rights and fair labor practices throughout the supply chain.
At the very bottom of the page, Aldi links its profile with the Ocean Disclosure Project website, a nonprofit.
Follow that link, and you will find that Aldi still sources its Albacore tuna from fisheries in China. Also interesting to note is that the fisheries are not Fishery Improvement Project certified and are only considered “managed” versus the better “well-managed” designation.
Does Aldi Beef Come From China?
Aldi beef does not come from China. Perhaps the low prices on Aldi beef products have led some to believe it has been purchased cheaply from China, thus enabling the U.S. stores to charge so little, but that is not the case at all.
Most Aldi beef you find in your local stores comes from local or regional cattle farms.
Some, particularly the organic grass-fed ground beef, have been found to be imported partly from South America, but it does not come from China.
How Can You Tell If Aldi Food Doesn’t Come From China?
Aldi – and all other supermarkets and sellers of fruits and vegetables – are bound by law to proclaim the country of origin (COOL) for each product on the packaging. This is required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
However: there is a slight loophole to this law. If an item comes from a first country to a second, and in the second country undergoes a “substantial transformation,” the packaging need only declare the second country as the country of origin.
Seafood is a bit more stringent, though, as both the location where it was caught and where it was processed (if not the U.S.) must appear on the labeling.
If seafood is your most significant concern, then check the labeling. If it was caught or processed in China, Aldi is legally obligated to state that on the packaging.
If you don’t see any country of origin, then hurrah – it was made in the USA!
Do Any Other Aldi Products Come From China?
It is difficult to find a major retailer in the world today that does not source at least some of its products from China.
While Aldi’s food is mainly sourced outside of China, the supermarket chain also has a robust line of home goods, pet supplies, clothing, etc., which they sell and swap out on a weekly basis, as Aldi Finds.
If you look at your Aldi Finds’ packaging, you will see that some do, indeed, come from China.
For example, I recently bought an Easy Home label portable LED air cooler. While it says “Dist. & Sold Exclusively By: ALDI, Batavia, IL 60510” in the smaller print above that it reads “Made in China.”
The same thing for a set of four scissors from the Huntington Home label.
Interestingly, I also purchased some wastebaskets from the Easy Home label, which are made in the U.S.
So you can’t tell by Aldi private label whether your item was made in China, as Aldi sources the good under each label from various manufacturers. As I said before, if it matters to you, you can check the packaging to see which Aldi products were made in China.
Aldi’s albacore tuna is a product of China, but it appears to be one of very few, if any other, food items that the company sources from that country. Many of us likely wouldn’t even know it, if it hadn’t been for the 2017 North Korean labor scandal.
If country of origin is important to you, continue to read your labels and check the packaging, especially in the Aldi Finds aisles, where many of their home goods and electronics continue to be made in China.