Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Time for a Ban?

Nearly two-thirds of Americans would support a ban on Chinese imports, a poll yesterday said.
Asked by pollster Zogby International whether they were concerned about buying Chinese products, 82 percent of respondents said yes and only 30 percent said they believed food imports from China were safe.

Some recent imports of seafood, toys, pet food and toothpaste from China have been mislabeled, contaminated or otherwise proven unsafe. Consumers consequently remain wary.

Meanwhile, in another report:
At least 1 million pounds of suspect Chinese seafood landed on American store shelves and dinner plates despite a Food and Drug Administration order that the shipments first be screened for banned drugs or chemicals...

So, can the FDA competently handle their current workload and identify unsafe products? Carl R. Nielsen doesn't seem to think so. He should know. He oversaw import inspections at the FDA until 2005.

Normally, the FDA tests 1% of imports, but when food products fall under an import alert, they are supposed to be held "until private tests that cost importers thousands of dollars show the seafood is clean. Sometimes, the FDA double-checks those tests in its own labs. Products can be detained for months, irking importers."

China's response fails to generate confidence. On the one hand, they agree to inspect fish farms for use of dangerous drugs and chemicals while on the other they call "the FDA's testing mandate illegal under world trade rules."

Last summer, FDA labs began accumulating evidence that 15 percent of farm-raised shrimp, eel and catfish contained dangerous or unapproved substances. The agency started throwing individual companies on its watch list, and ultimately issued a sweeping mandate that all shrimp, eel and catfish raised on Chinese farms be stopped and tested.

Federal food safety officials said that while the seafood poses no immediate danger, long-term exposure could increase the risk of cancer or undermine the effectiveness of drugs used to fight outbreaks of disease...

The Chinese government and U.S. importers say the FDA overreacted. It would be impossible, importers say, for a person to eat enough seafood to be affected by the trace levels that FDA found of substances such as the antifungal chemical malachite green and the antibiotic Cipro.

It still smells fishy to me. With fifteen percent of imported seafood tainted, I don't think the FDA overreacted. Consumers expect food on American shelves to be safe. Would an American company be allowed to get away with this? I doubt it. Lawsuits would force them out of business if the government didn't clamp down on them first.

Also, after our pets have been killed, our toothpaste made unsafe for use, lead found in our children's toys, and our own food supply tainted, the burden should fall on the Chinese to pay for testing to prove their purity of their products. For us to pay through our taxes for all this testing would cause the true price of imports to be masked with Americans paying a hidden price for each product while believing it truly cheaper than American or other imported products. American companies would surely be run out of business for this kind of behavior. Why should foreign companies get a pass?

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At 8/08/2007 10:29 AM, Anonymous Bosun said...

In light of the Chinese threat to China's threatening a 'nuclear option' of dollar sales ( ) and the scandals of Chinese pollution and exporting contaminated foods into the US, we are being placed in a very dangerous situation.

Perhaps much to the dismay of Tom Tancredo and other nationalists regarding our internationalist president "Dubya" Bush, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and President Felipe Calderón to a North American Union, I am beginning to wonder if this may not be a defensive move for the survival of North America.
What do you think?


At 8/08/2007 11:20 AM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

I have been very, very concerned about our dependence on China for a couple decades now, since high school actually.

We never bought Chinese crayons for the kids.

I had considered not buying anything made in China, but found that it was nearly impossible. Besides, the safety of many products really isn't an issue.

It's not the Chinese people, mind you, but the government I don't trust. While we probably can't sever ties completely (and that would probably be overkill anyway), it may not be a bad idea to slowly phase out our relationship and our addiction to Chinese products. Their threats to destroy our economy isn't a proper contrite response to our concerns over their shipping us tainted goods. One would think they would be more than willing to do whatever was necessary to prove their products healthful and to reassure us.

I'm not an isolationist, but we do need to consider our own needs first.


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