WASHINGTON -- At a time when Chinese products have
come under fire for being defective, "Made in China" labels still mean good
quality and value for money to US consumers as up-to-date statistics show the
majority of Chinese goods meet US standards.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said on June 28 a block on imports
of five species of seafood from China because of so-called contamination.
The announcement, coupled with reports of contaminated pet food ingredients,
led some American media to place an equals sign between "Made in China" and
However, a closer look at the data on Chinese imports would reveal the
majority of them meet US quality standards while only a fraction of them is
The FDA regulates food, drugs, medical devices and some radiation-emitting
devices. FDA data showed Chinese seafood was seized at the border less than 400
times last year. By comparison, products from the Dominican Republic was stopped
over 800 times and candy from Denmark was rejected more than 500 times during
the same period.
The statistics also showed that in 2006 the sale of Dominican food in the
United States amounted to 300 million US dollars and Danish food hit 400 million
dollars, whereas the sale of Chinese food reached 3.8 billion dollars.
From July 2006 through June of this year, the agency's inspectors stopped
1,763 food shipments from India, followed by Mexico at 1,480, China 1,368,
Dominican Republic 828, Denmark 543, Vietnam 533, Japan 508 and Italy 482 and
US government data indicated that China sent more food products, at least in
terms of dollar value, into the United States than any of these countries except
Mexico in 2006.
Mexico shipped 9.8 billion dollars worth of food to the United States,
followed by China, which shipped 3.8 billion dollars. By comparison, Italy
shipped 2.9 billion dollars worth of food to the United States, followed by
Indonesia at 1.5 billion, India 1.2 billion, Vietnam 1.1 billion and Japan 500
At the same time the FDA issued an import alert for Chinese fish, it also
issued alerts for Mexican cantaloupes and basmati rice from India among others.
In terms of food violation counts, Mexico and India are well ahead of China.
Salmonella mostly found on spices, seeds and shrimps is the frequent reason for
the denial of entry from India. Filth is the major reason that food from Mexico,
including candy, chilies, juice, seafood and cheese, was rejected.
A recent report issued by China's quality watchdog, the General
Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, sheds more
light on the issue.
Last year, less than 1 percent of the Chinese food products were rejected by
the United States due to quality problems, the report said, adding that the
figure is even lower than the percentage of substandard USfood products China
rejected last year.
Carl Nielsen, a retired FDA official who oversaw import operation and policy,
said no single country should be faulted for quality problems.
"What we are experiencing is massive globalization," he told The New York
Globalization urges businesses all over the world to seek the utmost
cost-saving products to achieve maximum profits. In so doing, importers do
everything in their power to drive down prices of products whereas exporters go
all out to reduce costs, Nielsen said.
Wherever there is a loophole in quality oversight, there is a hotbed of
poor-quality or substandard products, he added.
Since any merchandise could be the result of international trade, problems
with quality may rise anywhere during the process, from raw materials and
manufacturing to distribution.
Improving food safety, therefore, needs the joint efforts of governments at
all levels at home and cooperation among countries when it comes to conveying
complete and correct quality information to the consumers.