WP: Trade With China Complicates Food Safety

The Washington Post tackles the problems and opportunities of doing business with China’s food manufacturers.

(UPDATE: This LA Times article echoes the same news. Reg. req.)

From a consumer’s point, the problem is clear — tainted Chinese imports are commonly found at the border at an alarming rate:

In the first four months of 2007, FDA inspectors — who are able to check out less than 1 percent of regulated imports — refused 298 food shipments from China. By contrast, 56 shipments from Canada were rejected, even though Canada exports about $10 billion in FDA-regulated food and agricultural products to the United States — compared to about $2 billion from China.

The list and descriptions of rejected foods have “grossed out” officials. Also, hundreds of thousands of pounds of poultry has been caught being smuggled from China and other Asian countries.

On the other hand, The Washington Post says trade with China has become so integral that restricting imports may harm the US economy. A former assistant secretary of agriculture says “[US] farmers and food processors have drooled for years to be able to sell their food to that massive market… The Chinese counterfeit. They have a serious piracy problem. But we put up with it because we want to sell to them.”

China controls 80 percent of the world’s production of ascorbic acid, for example, a valuable preservative that is ubiquitous in processed and other foods. Only one producer remains in the United States, Hubbard said.

“That’s true of a lot of ingredients,” he said, including the wheat gluten that was initially thought to be the cause of the pet deaths. Virtually none of it is made in the United States, because the Chinese sell it for less than it would cost U.S. manufacturers to make it.

So pervasive is the U.S. hunger for cheap imports, experts said, that the executive branch itself has repeatedly rebuffed proposals by agency scientists to impose even modest new safety rules for foreign foods.

The Post also criticizes the Bush administration for blocking new regulations and says China is aware of the problem, yet not sure how effective it will be at solving the problem.

In related news: Toothpaste in Panama and Australia containing anti-freeze ingredient is linked to China.

21 Responses to “WP: Trade With China Complicates Food Safety”

  1. Helen says:

    *head explodes all over cat* *cat purrs and rubs against remains of head* *head recovers after administration of treatment by cat* Furious mother of cat now enters a new realm of speechless with rage.

  2. JJ says:

    So its business as usual. Nothing changes and never will according to this story. The companies here are chomping at the bit to sell to China and in return will let them import anything they want as long as the corporations here get their foot in the door and sell to them. How disgusting, how utterly disgusting.

  3. Anonymouse says:

    Try looking into ingredients sometime — ascorbic acid is in more products we ingest than you would care to imagine. It’s only a matter of time before some of *that* gets tainted and we see human deaths up the wazoo too.

    I don’t think it’s too harsh to say that corporate greed in our country is going to end up getting a lot of us killed. They’re in essence selling our safety… While they find loopholes to squirm out of paying full taxes for what they make and ways to not hire disabled/veteran employees or to avoid accommodating their needs, we have a crumbling educational system, overflowing pet shelters, and a population of kids/seniors/disabled/veterans struggling far below the poverty level (if not homeless) because society can’t afford a fraction of what’s needed.

  4. mittens says:

    the antifreeze family of chemicals was involved in one of the earlier ( 1937) fiascos that forced the FDA to force manufacturers to prove their products were safe. it’s hard to imagine they didnt have to prove the item safe-but they didn’t . this was before antifreeze’s effects were known .it was used to dissolve a medication that was not water soluble and needed to be formulated in a liquid form. clearly the chinese are using it because of this quality- it is an industrial solvent- and let the dead humans and animals fall where they may. china could give a flying f’ about human life-look how it treats it’s own citizens- running them over with tanks. we should be shunning them not trading with them for their human rights violations alone. even google turns in info of chinese citizens using the Net to the government-an atrocity no one seems to care about.

    why these incidents-incidents whose domino effects we will, it seems, be feeling forever and which show no signs of not occuring across the entire range of comestibles for animals and humans- do not trigger an immediate rejection of every single food/medicine item from china is beyond comprehension. if all our pets and children are dead who the hell is going to be left to buy your crappy products?

    the fda is basically largely funded by the manufacturers ( especially drug makers)whose products it’s suppose to be supervising. the staff is notoriously underpaid and the bigwigs are generally friends of whatever president is in power. this has to end or there will be no stop to this insanity.we’re the wealthiest country in the world- we shouldn’t be dropping dead next to our pets when we go to brush our teeth. we trade away our future and our health if we can’t make our own food products in house and can’t assure the safety of our own citizens from predatory murderers masquerading as american food and drug companies. people talk about measures to save us from terrorism- well, let’s start by rigerously demanding the safety of our food and anything coming into the USA.if anyone wanted a hard to trace way of poisoning our food supply, they’ve just been handed a blueprint courtesy of the FDA and the pet food makers. will 5,000 people die from tainted cough syrup and the press and fda whinging for 3 months about the 16 lone deaths? about how hysterical the grieving survivors are, blowing everything out of proportion?

  5. JJ says:

    Wow Mittens - your words are so powerful they bear repeating again.

    “predatory murderers masquerading as american food and drug companies”

  6. Genny says:

    “The Post also criticizes the Bush administration for blocking new regulations and says China is aware of the problem, yet not sure how effective it will be at solving the problem.”

    One can only hope the entire Bush administration and their Corporate buds will somehow fall prey to the greed they pertetuate. Sooner than later would be great.

    Another good laugh and visual from Helen. I so appreciate softening the egde of the mind blowing news I read here with humor.

  7. straybaby says:

    “. . . and says China is aware of the problem, yet not sure how effective it will be at solving the problem.”

    sounds like this administration . . .

    *commences head banging against wall”

  8. 5CatMom says:

    Note to US food companies:

    Stop using junk from China.

    Use only US grown and manufactured ingredients, and put this info on your packaging.

    No more tainted food!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Word of caution-

    Re: the toothpaste–if you or a loved one enter the hospital, the personal supplies they give are often made in places other than the US. Have seen them give patients toothpaste made in India, etc.

    The print on the tubes isn’t always very large, but stop and read it; the way this is going, who knows if one could be injured/killed by anti-freeze toothpaste while in the hospital.

  10. Helen says:

    Mittens re:”we’re the wealthiest country in the world”

    I think we are not the wealthiest country in the world any longer. Have you seen our national debt recently? We are making China the wealthiest country in the world.

    Now for a really terrifying thought. Suppose, just suppose, that China is the only manufacturer of vital goods we need to live, and we no longer have the capability to make our own vitamins or grow our own food, and THEN just suppose we have a big fat fight with China and they decide to stop providing these vital items to us. They would not even HAVE to declare war on us. They could shut our country down by refusing to export to us. Don’t think for a minute this hasn’t crossed their minds.

  11. menusux says:

    My apologies re: the Anonymous toothpaste post. Looks like I’m now “legal” again.

  12. Anonymous says:

    For China To Wage War On Us Would Be A Very Simple Thing. I Dont Know How Many Of You Are In Major Cities But I Am And Ive Watched What They Are Doing Here. They Are Buying Everything In Site. There Are No Signs In English. It Started Slowly In The 80z But Has Been Picking Up Speed For The Last 10yrz. I Know Ny Isnt The Only City This Is Happening In. And The Us Isnt The Only Country They Are Invading. A Friend That Grew Up Here Compared Them To Locust I Must Agree. The Air Quality Here Has Been Getting Worse Our Main St Smells Worse Then A Tank Of Rotting Fish And Is Coated In Slim. They Now Want To Buy The Low Income Housing Projects To Make Them Co Ops. A 1 Bedroom Apt Goes For 1200 A Month Sometimes Higher. They Are Getting Very Involved In Our Politics And Moving Up The Ranks Quickly. There Are States Trying To Make Manderin Chinese Mandatory In Our Schools And Schools Where Asian Only Students Are Taught In Asian. REALIZE THIS THEY WANT US DEAD AND OUT OF THEIR WAY.

  13. Helen says:

    Any country that cannot provide for its own needs is a sitting meladuck.

  14. Katie says:

    Helen and Anonymous,

    You are exactly right! and sometimes I think the “war” in Iraq is a smokescreen. If the American people have their minds elsewhere they will never know what is going on around them.

    Our infrastructure is being sold to foreign countries, jobs have gone overseas, the schools in my city are teaching Chinese to second graders, it is racial to speak ill of what has happened to the pet food and our food. This global econonmy, free trade has gone haywire. Everything is in the name of big business and greed.

    Katie

  15. Sharon says:

    I hope every member of the Bush administration pays for what they have done to this country in the name of greed. I look at their faces and wonder how they can sleep at night. I guess it’s easy when you have no conscience.

  16. Anonymous says:

    HOW THE FREKIN HELLO COULD BUYING FROM THE USA INSTEAD OF TOXIC CHINA HURT OUR ECONOMY. MAYBE IF WE KEPT OUR MONEY AND OUR JOBS HERE WE COULD STRENGTHN OUR ECONOMY. ITS TIME TO STOP THE BLEEDING HEART HELP EVERYONE ELSE BULL SHOCKS AND HELP OUR OWN. WE ARE IN A B.S. WAR SPENDING MONEY WE DONT HAVE TO REBUILD AND RESTRUCTURE A COUNTRY WHERE MOST WANT US DEAD. WHEN THE TSUNAMI HIT WHERE EVER WE HAD TROOPS THERE IN 48 FIN HRZ. WHEN KATRINA HIT IT TOOK A FIN WK AND BETTER WHATS WRONG WITH THIS FIN PICTURE

  17. mittens says:

    a brief history of frankenwheat and the chinese and our new biatch-monsanto

    http://www.organicconsumers.or.....120604.cfm

    this site has mucho articles about GM-treasure trove actually.

  18. Mandy says:

    Trade With China Complicates Food Safety

    Gee no kidding!

  19. CathyA says:

    Well, I’m just not *in the mood* lately to be bullied by either China or The Shrub and his shrublets. I’m sure no one in the government is going to listen unless they get a flood of letters. So, all you grocery stores out there - all you pet food makers - get this: I’m not buying anything that could be called food from China. Period. I’ll find out who the lone US Vitamin C maker is in this country and buy from them. If any of you chicken producers will be sending chickens to China to be processed, well, you’re off the list too. I’ve…….had…….enough.

  20. soma says:

    Congressperson,

    I urge you to implement the country of origin labeling legislation and to mandate labeling of GMO crops. Now, more than ever, people like myself are demanding the right to know what we are eating and where it came from. Let me decide!!! This is America. Next they’ll be burning the books. People have right to know. PEOPLE IN THE EU HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW AND SO SHOULD WE. I THINK THIS IS A PIVOTAL ISSUE. IT’S OUR VERY FOOD SUPPLY. THE WHOLE SYSTEM IS A MESS AND NEEDS AN OVERHAUL. BUT RIGHT NOW I WANT THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE WHAT I BUY. FIRST I NEED THAT INFORMATION. LARGE CORPORATIONS ARE LOBBYING TO KEEP IT FROM ME. WHY? DON’T I KNOW WELL ENOUGH TO CHOOSE FOR MYSELF? OR DO THEY KNOW THAT THEY HAVE MADE DECISIONS OUT OF SYNC WITH AND DESPITE THE ADVICE OF SCIENTISTS AND CITIZENS. PLEASE HEAR MY VOICE. IMPLEMENT C.O.O.L! LEGISLATE FOR MANDATORY GMO TRUTH IN LABELING.
    Thank you

  21. soma says:

    I can not believe the US is seriously considering shipping chicken back and forth with China. What can they be paying the Chinese workers if it is still cheaper with shipping figured in? Although it is much cheaper to ship to China than back here because there are so many empty containers on the ships. All of the goods are heading here, very little back. My husband does some international shipping and checked the rates. But the whole idea is environmentally, socially and morally decrepit. Bird flu is another frightening tangent on this whole bird merry-go-round.. There is a real intellectual vacuum sucking the brains out of our government administrators’ minds. Even the greedy motives of Big Business will come back to haunt them as well as the rest of us. They are so myopic. And most of the American consumers, citizens of our lovely land, couldn’t care less. That is why democracy does not exist. You have to have the informed and conscientious participation of the people. Otherwise it’s just another oligarchy.


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