KAI RYSSDAL: The Chinese ambassador and the head of the Food and Drug Administration made the rounds in Congress today. Lawmakers have been calling for closer import inspections as the contaminated pet food scandal has spread.
U.S. food producers are all in favor of a tougher tone with foreign counterparts. So we asked Marketplace’s Steve Tripoli to look into whether their motives are entirely unadulterated.
STEVE TRIPOLI: American poultry producers are jumping all over a proposal to let Chinese chicken into the U.S. Two catfish-farming states recently banned Chinese catfish found to contain forbidden antibiotics. And a flood of stories about dangerous practices abroad feeds the fire. So concerns are legitimate.
But Carol Tucker Foreman at the Consumer Federation of America says that doesn’t mean there isn’t a whiff of protectionism in U.S. producers’ complaints.
CAROL TUCKER FOREMAN: Well, it wouldn’t be the first time. On the other hand, we do have to have a system that gives us the ability to go into those countries and check the adequacy of their food inspection.
Jean Kinsey at the University of Minnesota’s Food Industry Center says calls for a crackdown are hard to ignore, because the extent of problems abroad remains a question mark.
JEAN KINSEY: The answer is no, we don’t know how much of it is going on. The only way we would know how it’s really going on is to do a lot of investigative work and testing of product that is coming into this country.
Kinsey agrees that some of the hollering from here may be unwarranted. But she says that since U.S. producers often make food under specific brand labels, they have a big stake in knowing what’s coming into their plants. And new responsibilities, too.
KINSEY: The people importing it have to be better at testing what they’re getting, and developing a stronger international protocol for tracking and tracing the food that comes through the supply chain.
Kinsey and Foreman both say there’s a long way to go in making the global market in food products more transparent.
I’m Steve Tripoli for Marketplace.
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