, Newburyport, MA


September 17, 2013

What industry could we buy from China?


There has been an ongoing litany of attempts to evade safety. In the early days of the 21st century, a contaminated blood-thinning drug was linked to 81 deaths in the U.S. Pet foods, with melamine, killed or sickened thousands and counterfeit test strips to monitor blood sugar levels posed a risk of diabetes for many. In 2009, 100 people in Panama died from brushing their teeth from a diethlyene glygol-contaminated toothpaste. Again in 2009, thousands of wallboard sheets imported into Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana to bolster rebuilding due to hurricane damage emitted noxious sulfur and methane odors and had to be replaced at a cost of millions of dollars. Mistrust of domestic brands of milk powder in China has resulted in a global search for infant formula the past five years leading to shortages from Europe to Australia. Affluent Chinese traveling to neighboring countries are being limited to two cans upon returning to keep their babies alive, according to new laws. Unfortunately, in early August, China banned milk powder imported from New Zealand and Australia due to contamination, thus creating increased shortages.

We are importing $4.1 billion pounds of food products from China: tilapia (80 percent of consumption), artificial vanilla, canned tuna, mandarin oranges, fresh mushrooms, apple juice (50 percent of consumption) and frozen spinach. Fortunately, China is not allowed to export fresh pork or beef to the U.S. because it still has outbreaks of hoof and mouth disease. On Aug. 30, our Department of Agriculture approved four processing plants in China to begin shipping a limited amount of poultry. The birds are to be raised in the U.S. and Canada, but predictions are that the poultry will be bred eventually in China, which does not have the best track record for food safety. Chinese facilities will cook the birds, but no USDA inspectors will be present in the plants. Because the poultry will be processed, it will not require country-of-origin labeling. Now, to add to our food woes, we will have to be watchful for canned chicken soup and nuggets that may contain salmonella.

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