Is It Safe To Continue To Import Chinese Food Products?

During the last few years, several questions have been raised on food products imported from China, yet many countries have already become so dependent on Chinese imports that it has become practically impossible to exert a stringent control on these products on the basis of questionable standards. Even the 2014 Meat Scandal exposed in Shanghai has not made much dent to Chinese Food Exports.
Is it Safe to Continue to Import Chinese Food Products?
Source - Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AChina_wok%2C_Lima%2C_Peru.JPG)

The global consumers, and not just Americans, have been bitten by the Chinese bug. They can no more think of buying anything but Chinese, even though they keep paying for them in all other forms. Health hazards are just one more form in which the US citizens bear the cost of Chinese products without realizing it. But there are other costs too, the cost of a burgeoning trade deficit, the cost of inefficient over consumption and the cost of shifting employment. Perhaps, this is why, the concerns about poor quality of food products exported from Shanghai hardly effects the global

food market of Chinese food products.

State Owned Enterprises are the Beneficiaries

Most of Chinese goods enter and capture the American market on the basis of their very low costs, which is directly the result of the undervalued currency maintained by the Chinese government. It is a woeful game in which Chinese labor get nothing, because their wages remain just enough to survive, and sometimes not even that much (as in the case of rescued minors working in mines), but the over consumption of goods allows the Chinese state owned enterprises and Chinese government to collect more dollars for their defense programs and for increasing their influence in Africa, North Korea, Myanmar and Iran.

Rules are Implemented but just ‘Enough’

The rules, including those of FDA, are just on paper. Their application depends on mindset. The brand 'China' has acquired a status in US, which allows them to penetrate all restrictions, on the power of their unfair cost advantage. So the hazards that they bring with them are overlooked. Even though it is not safe to import them, they will continue to come in, and in fact the publicity they gained by the scandals in the past has only given them an added advantage of being highly advertised.

The Scandals that Exposed Poor Chinese Food Safety Norms

In 2009, the contamination in Chinese pet food exports was held responsible for the inadvertently killing hundreds of dogs in North America, leading to widespread concerns about Chinese safety norms. Around the same time, the Dominican Republic discovered that toothpaste imported from China was contaminated with a dangerous chemical used as engine coolants. Chinese authorities assured global consumers about steps for improving food


safety norms to assuage their concerns. It is not clear, however, as to whether these assurances actually led to any changes.

In 2014, a journalist in Shanghai exposed the poor standards of hygiene and lax standards that allowed export to handle prospective meat export to be handled in an unhygienic manner and also allowed exporting units in Shanghai to export expired meat. At first, this expose led to wide international criticism. Fall in sales were reported from the fast food joints that used Chinese imports. In fact, McDonald units in Japan declared that they were shifting their imports from Thailand, instead of China. Many other fast food chains also reacted similarly.

However, with time, everything seems to have fallen back in place. For enterprises, what matters most in saving costs, and to the extent this goal is served by Chinese imports, every other consideration is secondary. Chinese government has also handled these concerns very tactfully, using all growing trade influence to its best advantage.

For the consumers, however, there is still not enough assurance as to whether they are being served with food that is in accordance with the applicable standards of safety and health quality.

Is there an Alternative?

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It is time the United States looked beyond China. There are many other countries in the world, which rely on organic farming on a large extent. Countries like India, Brazil, Thailand and Malaysia have safer agricultural products, but often lose out either because of the Chinese currency advantage, or because they do not have the same clout in international trade. It is time to take a close hard look at whatever is going on. The only way the international consumers can force improvement on Chinese goods is to be ready to pay a premium for quality, standards and food-safety. That may mean buying from other competitors at fractionally higher costs.



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