The toxic chemical that was found recently in imported dog food has cause the Bush administration to press Chinese officials to bolster the safety of food exports.
“Recent events have forced very clearly as one of our top concerns the safety of food and medicine,” Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said, according to Yahoo! News. A two-day meeting included scores of senior officials from both countries. A two-day “strategic economic dialogue” involving scores of senior officials from both countries.
Melamine was found in U.S. pet foods this year, which had been imported from China. It killed pets and caused country-wide recalls. Melamine is a chemical that is used in plastics and fertilizers. Since then, the U.S. has been more cautious and worried about imports from China. Doubts were raised about how well the United States has been monitoring food safety.
The United States is trying to maintain a more transparent food regulation and to get permission to send U.S. audit teams into China.
“The Chinese government clearly understands the world marketplace will swiftly disadvantage any nation or economy or firm that is not able to establish a sense of confidence and reliability,” said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, according to Yahoo! News .
An update is expected to be heard on Thursday as talks on the food safety issues continue.
The Agriculture Department takes care of the safety of some of our food imports, like meat and poultry. The Food and Drug Administration, more commonly known as the FDA, regulates the distribution of fruits, vegetables, and many food products that are imported and domestic.
“China is particularly problematic” on food safety, said Joe Mendelson, legal director at the Center for Food Safety. “It’s clear that they don’t have any type of internal oversight that we can in any way rely on,” according to Yahoo! News .
All vegetable protein imports from China are on “import alert” for the moment, meaning that they get immediate inspection. A lethal chemical was found in a toothpaste that was shipped and sold in the Dominican Republic and in the Panama, prompting the FDA to check all shipments containing toothpaste.
The FDA currently inspects just 1.3 percent of the food that is being imported into the United States, said Heidi Rebello, an FDA spokesperson. “We need the resources to do that and then we need political will at agency level,” he said, according to Yahoo! News .
Rebello says that the FDA will continue to investigate the melamine problem. Some in China charge the safety concerns are really veiled protectionism.
originally written by Missy Ryan, Reuters, U.S. pushes China on Food Safety, Yahoo news, http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070523/pl_nm/usa_china_food_dc&printer=1;_ylt=Au4Ub3yTqcusXdO8mHfCDeIb.3QA