China food crackdown may lack bite

Scott Tong Jun 27, 2007
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China food crackdown may lack bite

Scott Tong Jun 27, 2007
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Lisa Napoli: As we in the news have been talking about all these tainted products coming from China, you’ve probably been thinking, that can’t be the last of it. It turns out, you’d be right. Today, the Chinese government even said so itself. It shut down 180 factories that make food after finding industrial chemicals are being used in them. From Shanghai, Scott Tong says we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Scott Tong: In China there were a lot of food scares going on long before the international community found out about melamine and other things. There was a crisis regarding baby formula in China, regarding wine in China. So last December a special investigation began and what happened today is the government released their interim findings and they have found some industrial materials in certain kinds of foods.

Napoli: So it’s not just that we’re seeing the imports here, they themselves have been seeing the problems there.

Tong: Food safety is a big conversation in China and as China has become wealthier there’s become a real middle class as some economists define it. There are a lot of people who worry about the things that middle-class Americans worry about. They worry about buying iPods and Nikes and they worry about the environment and they worry a whole lot about food safety.

Napoli: Is there any sense that this shutdown Scott is going to do anything? Is it gonna solve any of the problems?

Tong: It’s hard to know. On the one hand, the government is known for putting its mind to something and really accomplishing it. On the other hand, we’re talking about 180 plants here, which sounds like a lot, but the denominator here is 750,000. That’s how many small privately-owned food processing plants there are in China. So is it a lot? Hard to know. Academics also say that enforcement is really difficult in China. There’s not enough budget, there’s not enough enforcement officials to look for problems in this giant country.

Napoli: That’s our reporter in China, Scott Tong.

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