China, US Meet to Discuss Unsafe Imports

A US delegation arrived in China on Tuesday to discuss the recent rash of <"">unsafe imports coming from that country. The group, which is led by Department of Health and Human Services official Rich McKeown, will focus on reaching agreements with the Chinese government over imports of food, drugs and medical devices.

Worries over Chinese imports started earlier this year after pet food that used a Chinese ingredient was found to be contaminated with a poisonous chemical. The ingredient killed several pets. In recent months every thing from tires to toys and toothpaste imported from China have been found to be either contaminated or defective. Just this week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning to consumers in several states not to eat fresh ginger from China because it could be contaminated with a dangerous pesticide. In July, the FDA announced that it would be cracking down on imports of <"">Chinese seafood because of concerns that it might contain chemicals banned in the US. The FDA banned imports of farm-raised catfish, shrimp and other seafood unless their suppliers could prove that they were free of contamination. Recently, the Chinese have retaliated for such moves by rejecting some products from the US.

A statement issued by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Mike Leavitt, said that the delegation hopes to find ways to improve the flow of information between the countries and devise import regulations that consumers in both countries can trust. Leavitt’s statement said that US regulatory agencies were concerned that China lacks a sufficient infrastructure to ensure product safety. The delegation will be in China for five days, and will meet with an official from the country’s General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

When the concerns over Chinese imports were first raised by the US, the Chinese were at first reluctant to admit a problem. The government called new US restrictions “excessive” and reports in the Chinese media portrayed US concerns over Chinese products as “xenophobic”. But in past weeks, the government in China has made a very public effort to crack down on product safety. The country has moved aggressively to shut down dozens of unregulated factories where the defective products where produced.

China exports $2.26 billion dollars worth of agricultural products to the US each year, and such exports are a vital component of the Chinese economy. This year’s safety scandals threaten that business, and most analysts expect China to improve its safety standards for that reason.

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