May 24, 2007
Written by C.N.
You might remember that when pet food was found to be killing hundreds, if not thousands, of dogs and cats a few months ago, most analyses traced the contamination back to China. Since then, other poisoning episodes here and abroad have cast the spotlight upon Chinese food and household imports. As the Washington Post reports, tainted imports from China are much more common than most might think:
Dried apples preserved with a cancer-causing chemical. Frozen catfish laden with banned antibiotics. Scallops and sardines coated with putrefying bacteria. Mushrooms laced with illegal pesticides.
These were among the 107 food imports from China that the Food and Drug Administration detained at U.S. ports just last month, agency documents reveal, along with more than 1,000 shipments of tainted Chinese dietary supplements, toxic Chinese cosmetics and counterfeit Chinese medicines.
For years, U.S. inspection records show, China has flooded the United States with foods unfit for human consumption. And for years, FDA inspectors have simply returned to Chinese importers the small portion of those products they caught — many of which turned up at U.S. borders again, making a second or third attempt at entry.
Now the confluence of two events — the highly publicized contamination of U.S. chicken, pork and fish with tainted Chinese pet food ingredients and this week’s resumption of high-level economic and trade talks with China — has activists and members of Congress demanding that the United States tell China it is fed up.
Dead pets and melamine-tainted food notwithstanding, change will prove difficult, policy experts say, in large part because U.S. companies have become so dependent on the Chinese economy that tighter rules on imports stand to harm the U.S. economy, too.
The article basically explains that although the U.S. government considers tainted imports from China to be an important issue, they’re hesitant to crack down too hard on China because they don’t want to jeopardize the ability of American companies to access to the booming Chinese consumer market. In other words, capitalism and dollar signs are ultimately what’s driving how the U.S. government acts, or does not act.
As an Asian American, normally I would defend China and its efforts to become a legitimate international economic power. But the problem here is that the lack of quality controls in China is directly harming China’s attempts at becoming a legitimate power. In other words, if China wants to play on the big international economic stage, they need to make sure their products are up to standard, not second-rate, wrinky-dink knockoffs that cause illness and death. That’s not the way to become legitimate.
History has shown time and time again that in order for a company or an entire nation to earn international respect and be taken seriously, they need to have high quality products from the beginning. Witness how Hyundai is now producing some of the highest quality cars in the world, but is still struggling to overcome its lingering image for making cheap, unreliable subcompacts when it first entered the U.S. market in the 1980s.
While most Chinese imports might be fine and are up to industry standards, what most people focus on and remember are those products that do not. China has some work to do in this area, and the U.S. needs to rein in their profit motive for once and insist on decent quality products from China before more people and their pets get sick or even die.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Tainted Food Imports From China" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/05/tainted-food-imports-from-china/> ().
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