In the last ten years, there has been a steady increasing in the value of Chinese imports in the United States. Chinese products have various features that enable them to be competitive. The low price of Chinese products is one of the major factors that have increased its competitiveness in the American market. There has been a steady increase in the consumption of imported food in the United States.
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Retailers usually strive to find low-cost suppliers of imported foods who would supply them with exotic and ethnic foods. These foods are high demand among American consumers. The U.S. imports most food products from China and Europe. However, there have been several cases of importation of unsafe food products. One of the most recent scandals of importation of unsafe food products was in Europe.
The scandal involved important the importation of horsemeat. Various countries were victims of unsafe food products. In addition, the outbreak of mad cow disease in various countries also leads to the contamination of food products. These foods may find their way into the international market.
Therefore, countries should ensure that they have stringent measures that would prevent the importation of contaminated food products. Since the U.S. imports a sizeable percentage of food products, contamination may have devastating effects. Various measures help the U.S. in reducing the possibility of unsafe Chinese imports finding their way into the market.
China is one of the largest exporters of food products to America. The value of Chinese food imports increased three-fold between 2001 and 2008. This necessitates the U.S. to ensure that food from the country meets various safety standards. This is because the importation of unsafe food products from the country would have a very great effect on the American food market. In 2008, there was widespread contamination of milk and infant formula in China.
The milk and infant formula contained traces of melamine. Melamine is a toxic product that may cause several health problems. Melamine causes severe damage to the kidneys.
Therefore, the intake of the chemical may be fatal. During this period, health officials also discovered the melamine in eggs. Addition of melamine to animal feeds was one of the major sources of the contamination. In China, food products that had traces of melamine led to the death of at least six infants (Brooks & Dunn, 2009).
It is a fact that contaminated food may also find its way into international markets. During the Chinese milk scandal, hundreds of thousands of infants received medical treatment due to the intake of the contaminated milk.
The widespread nature of the contamination enabled various countries to detect the problem before imports of the products had caused much damage. Soon after the discovery of the Chinese milk scandal, several countries banned the importation of dairy and poultry products from China. This had great economic effects on the country. However, the ban did not prevent contaminated food from reaching other markets.
The food products found their way into the United States. White Rabbit, which was the major distributor of various Chinese products, recalled the contaminated products after tests showed that they had traces of melamine.
This helped in averting the problem before it had significant effects on the population. After the discovery of contaminated food products, consumers and retailers were unwilling to stock Chinese dairy products (Gale & Buzby, 2009).
The Chinese milk scandal is a clear illustration of the problems that importation of contaminated Chinese food products poses to the American market. A sizeable percentage of imported food products in the U.S. come from China. Fish and seafood account for the largest share of Chinese imported food products. China is a global leader in the production of various food products.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) usually inspects all imports of food products from China and other countries. This helps in detecting various harmful chemicals that may be present in the products. The FDA usually returns several shipments with Chinese food products annually. However, it is difficult to determine the reasons why FDA orders the ships to return the food products.
This is because the FDA is usually unwilling to provide data that may explain why it rejects various food products from China. Also, the FDA may reject food due to various reasons. FDA may also reject food imports due to wrong branding. However, it is a fact that the agency rejects certain shipments due to safety concerns. In 2007, the FDA had one of the largest refusals of food shipments from China.
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However, this was before the onset of the Chinese milk scandal. In addition, during the year, the FDA issued import alerts against the importation of certain types of fish farms and shrimps from China (Gale & Buzby, 2009). This led to the subsequent decline in the importation of these products.
The FDA usually returns shipments with various types of food products from China. Fish, fruits, and vegetables account for a sizeable percentage of the returns. In addition, FDA rejects various Chinese products due to unsafe additives, improper labeling, or lack of registration of the manufacturer.
These unsafe practices usually occur during food handling and processing. However, the food products may acquire several harmful chemicals at the farm. Harmful pesticides and pathogens may harm products at the farm. However, according to the FDA, cases of harmful pesticides and pathogens in Chinese imports are very rare (Blatt, 2008).
Chinese authorities have undertaken several measures to improve the safety of food exports. The authorities strive to certify various parties that engage in the exportation of food products. However, certified exporters account for a very small percentage of food exporters. In addition, the authorities have excluded more than 200 million small farms and small food companies.
A large number of food exporters makes it difficult for Chinese authorities to monitor food exports effectively. It is vital for American and Chinese officials to engage in consultations that may help in improving the safety of food products. Consultations would improve the efficiency of the monitoring programs of both countries. This would ultimately benefit both countries.
This is because the improvement in the safety of food products would enable China to supply more food products. This would provide China with valuable foreign exchange. On the other hand, improved safety would help in safeguarding the health of Americans.
However, certain measures that strive to improve food safety may harm Chinese producers. Testing, certifications, and audits may increase costs that Chinese food exporters incur. This may necessitate them to raise the price of food products (Gale & Buzby, 2009). Raising prices would reduce the competitiveness of Chinese food products in the American market.
Blatt, H. (2008). America’s food. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Brooks,L.J. & Dunn, P. (2009). Business and professional ethics: For directors, executives, and accountants. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Gale F. & Buzby, J.C. (2009). Imports from China and food safety issues. Washington: U.S. Department of Agriculture.