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
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.
"So many U.S. companies are directly or indirectly involved in China
now, the commercial interest of the United States these days has
become to allow imports to come in as quickly and smoothly as
possible," said Robert B. Cassidy, a former assistant U.S. trade
representative for China and now director of international trade and
services for Kelley Drye Collier Shannon, a Washington law firm.
As a result, the United States finds itself "kowtowing to China,"
Cassidy said, even as that country keeps sending American consumers
adulterated and mislabeled foods.
It's not just about cheap imports, added Carol Tucker Foreman, a
former assistant secretary of agriculture now at the Consumer
Federation of America.
"Our farmers and food processors have drooled for years to be able to
sell their food to that massive market," Foreman said. "The Chinese
counterfeit. They have a serious piracy problem. But we put up with it
because we want to sell to them."
U.S. agricultural exports to China have grown to more than $5 billion
a year-- a fraction of last year's $232 billion U.S. trade deficit
with China but a number that has enormous growth potential, given the
Chinese economy's 10 percent growth rate and its billion-plus
Trading with the largely unregulated Chinese marketplace has its
risks, of course, as evidenced by the many lawsuits that U.S. pet food
companies now face from angry consumers who say their pets were
poisoned by tainted Chinese ingredients. Until recently, however, many
companies and even the federal government reckoned that, on average,
those risks were worth taking. And for some products they have had
little choice, as China has driven competitors out of business with
its rock-bottom prices.
But after the pet food scandal, some are recalculating.
"This isn't the first time we've had an incident from a Chinese
supplier," said Pat Verduin, a senior vice president at the Grocery
Manufacturers Association, a trade group in Washington. "Food safety
is integral to brands and to companies. This is not an issue the
industry is taking lightly."
New Focus on the Problem
China's less-than-stellar behavior as a food exporter is revealed in
stomach-turning detail in FDA "refusal reports" filed by U.S.
inspectors: Juices and fruits rejected as "filthy." Prunes tinted with
chemical dyes not approved for human consumption. Frozen breaded
shrimp preserved with nitrofuran, an antibacterial that can cause
cancer. Swordfish rejected as "poisonous."
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.
Although China is subject to more inspections because of its poor
record, those figures mean that the rejection rate for foods imported
from China, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, is more than 25 times that
Miao Changxia, of the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said China
"attaches great importance" to the pet food debacle. "Investigations
were immediately carried out . . . and a host of emergency measures
have been taken to ensure the hygiene and safety of exported plant-
origin protein products," she said in an e-mail.
But deception by Chinese exporters is not limited to plant products,
and some of their most egregiously unfit exports are smuggled into the
Under Agriculture Department rules, countries cannot export meat and
poultry products to the United States unless the USDA certifies that
the slaughterhouses and processing plants have food-safety systems
equivalent to those here. Much to its frustration, China is not
certified to sell any meat to the United States because it has not met
But that has not stopped Chinese meat exporters. In the past year,
USDA teams have seized hundreds of thousands of pounds of prohibited
poultry products from China and other Asian countries, Agriculture
Secretary Mike Johanns announced in March. Some were shipped in crates
labeled "dried lily flower," "prune slices" and "vegetables,"
according to news reports. It is unclear how much of the illegal meat
slipped in undetected.
Despite those violations, the Chinese government is on track to get
permission to legally export its chickens to the United States -- a
prospect that has raised concern not only because of fears of bacteria
such as salmonella but also because Chinese chickens, if not properly
processed, could be a source of avian flu, which public-health
authorities fear may be poised to trigger a human pandemic.
Last year, under high-level pressure from China, the USDA passed a
rule allowing China to export to the United States chickens that were
grown and slaughtered in North America and then processed in China --
a rule that quickly passed through multiple levels of review and was
approved the day before Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived in
Washington last April.
Now the rule that China really wants, allowing it to export its own
birds to the United States, is in the works, said Richard Raymond,
USDA's undersecretary for food safety. Reports in China have
repeatedly hinted that only if China gets its way on chicken exports
to the United States will Beijing lift its four-year-old ban on
importing U.S. beef. Raymond denies any link.
"It's not being facilitated or accelerated through the system at all,"
Raymond said of the chicken rule, adding that permission for China to
sell poultry to the United States is moving ahead because recent USDA
audits found China's poultry slaughterhouses to be equivalent to those
Tony Corbo, a lobbyist for Food and Water Watch, a Washington advocacy
group, said that finding -- which is not subject to outside review --
is unbelievable, given repeated findings of unsanitary conditions at
China's chicken slaughterhouses. Corbo said he has seen some of those
audits. "Everyone who has seen them was grossed out," he said.
An Official Response
The Cabinet-level "strategic economic dialogue" with China, which
began in September and is scheduled to resume on Wednesday, was
described early on as a chance for the United States and China to
break a long-standing stalemate on trade issues. When it comes to the
safety of imported foods, though, they may highlight the limited
leverage that the United States has.
It is not just that food from China is cheap, said William Hubbard, a
former associate director of the FDA. For a growing number of
important food products, China has become virtually the only source in
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,
"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
"Sometimes guidances can get through, but not regulations," said
Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science
in the Public Interest, an advocacy group. Guidances, which the FDA
defines as "current thinking on a particular subject," are not
Under the Bush administration in particular, DeWaal said, if a
proposed regulation does get past agency or department heads, it hits
the wall at the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Andrea Wuebker, an OMB spokeswoman, said that the office reviewed 600
proposed rules last year and that it is up to agencies to finalize
rules after they are reviewed. She did not tally how many reviews sent
agencies' rule-writers back to the drawing board. She noted that some
food safety rules have been finalized, including some related to mad
cow disease and bioterrorism. Critics point out that the bioterrorism-
related regulations were required by an act of Congress.
John C. Bailar III, a University of Chicago professor emeritus who
chaired a 2003 National Academies committee that recommended major
changes in the U.S. food safety system -- which have gone largely
unheeded -- said he has become increasingly concerned that
corporations and the federal government seem willing to put the
interests of business "above the public welfare."
"This nation has -- and has had for decades -- a pressing need for a
wholly dedicated food safety agency, one that is independent and not
concerned with other matters . . . to bring together and extend the
bits of food safety activities now scattered over more than a dozen
agencies," he said in an e-mail.
Legislation to create such an agency was recently introduced, though
many suspect that is too big a challenge politically.
But in the aftermath of the recent food scandals, a growing number of
companies and trade groups, including Grocery Manufacturers of
America, are speaking in favor of at least a little more protection,
starting with a doubling of the FDA's food safety budget.
China is talking tough, too. "Violations of the rules on the use and
addition of chemicals or other banned substances will be dealt with
severely," said Miao, of the Chinese Embassy.
It is a threat some doubt will be enforced with great vigor, but
nonetheless it reveals that China recognizes that the latest scandal
has shortened Americans' fuses.
So, if it has China listed on the label then let's just not buy it.
Government can decide whatever, but in the end we can choose for ourselves.
After buying some canned strawberries and seeing the filth right in the can,
I'd never knowingly buy any food product from China. People just have to
say, "No thanks".
This makes about as much sense as buying and eating arsenic instead of milk
because you can get it cheaper........
You may not have any choice where your food comes from
in the very near future.
Read up on the North American Union (NAU), the
Amero, Interstate 69 (the NAU superhighway), and the
North American Parliment (NAP).
The U.S. dollar and national borders will be history in a few
very short years. You will be buying Chinese food with your
The Chinese are currently building large seaports on the
west coast of Mexico. They already control the port of
San Diego (Los Angeles).
This is NOT a Republican or a Democrat thing. Both parties
support the formation of the NAU, including Bush, Hillary,
Willy Clinton, Obama, etc.
Amnesty for 20 million illegal Mexicans? Yeah! The globalists
are pushing this one right past us, while stuffing money into the
pockets of Republicans AND Democrats.
> Think you are seeing too much stuff from China now?
> You may not have any choice where your food comes from in the very near future.
> Read up on the North American Union (NAU), the
> Amero, Interstate 69 (the NAU superhighway), and the North American Parliment (NAP).
No thank, thats all mindless hysterical drivel, like yours.
> The U.S. dollar and national borders will be history in a few very short years.
Just another of your utterly mindless drug crazed fantasys.
> You will be buying Chinese food with your Ameros.
Fantasy, the vast bulk of it will still be produced in the US.
> The Chinese are currently building large seaports on the west coast of Mexico.
Irrelevant who they choose to do the building.
> They already control the port of San Diego (Los Angeles).
Pig ignorant lie.
> This is NOT a Republican or a Democrat thing. Both parties support the formation of the NAU,
> including Bush, Hillary, Willy Clinton, Obama, etc.
Because it has some real advantages and has nothing to do with china.
> Amnesty for 20 million illegal Mexicans? Yeah! The globalists
> are pushing this one right past us, while stuffing money into the
> pockets of Republicans AND Democrats.
Just another utterly mindless conspiracy theory and nothing to do with china.
Another troll for the blocked senders file.
Just another of your pathetic little drug crazed fantasys, child.
Oh my, you are still clamoring for my attention I see,
a persistent little troll we are, eh?
I have a nifty little program I wrote for category 2
trolls like you,
gimme a sec, will ya................
there ya go Mr Troll. You now have your very own
profile in my enhanced blocked senders file for the more
pesty trolls like you. When Any two or more parameters
or syntax are met, off your idiotic crap goes into cyberspace.
I never see it!
Buh-bye Mr Troll
Just another of your pathetic little drug crazed fantasys, child.
Consider it a small price to pay for AmeriKa contaminating with world's
crops with tainted GM crap.
Bloody hell... what are you doing here? :)
Looks like he got quite a reaction from you, ya obese seppo...
> I have a nifty little program I wrote for category 2
> trolls like you,
> gimme a sec, will ya................
> there ya go Mr Troll. You now have your very own
> profile in my enhanced blocked senders file for the more
> pesty trolls like you. When Any two or more parameters
> or syntax are met, off your idiotic crap goes into cyberspace.
> I never see it!
> Buh-bye Mr Troll
God almighty... what a load of CRAP.
There's nothing quite so pathetic than a Usenet newbie who thinks they
know how to impress.
Here's a tip for you:
Making a huge deal about kill filing/plonking/flushing/whatever is
pretty pathetic... just do it and move on. Of course, you have no
intention of filtering anyone in the hopes you've had some sort of
reaction by way of another reply.
> Bloody hell... what are you doing here? :)
Just another bombing run over another collection of prats |-)