China’s Efforts to Ensure Product Quality and Food Safety:
During 2007 some of the items imported from China caused serious concern. Pet food from China made many American dogs and cats sick. Then toys such as Thomas trains and Mattel dolls had toxic paint coatings or some other toxic content. Still later food products like ginger imported from China had pesticide residue. Not surprisingly at the Third China-US Strategic Economic Dialogue that began on December 12, product quality and food safety figured prominently as the most critical issues on the agenda. Promptly enough an article on the subject by Ms. Wu Yi, Vice Premier of China appeared in the Wall Street journal the previous day elaborating the different measures that are already in place to ensure the quality of things made in China as well as the full safety of consumable items either for humans or animals. The article is a frank effort aimed at convincing the user of China-made goods that inspections and testing are stringent like any where else. The Vice Premier has also pleaded that individual cases of breach of safety or quality norms should not be exaggerated to give the erroneous impression that it is the rule rather than the exception. Such hype about poor product quality and hazard would ruin China’s image.
It is easily conceded that even under the most stringent regimen of scheduled inspection and testing, faux pas could occur. However, it is also possible that in some locations, in a hurry to get on with development, and meet export obligations there is a short shrift of environment safety. Recently CNN’s Sanjay Gupta showed graphic accounts of sickness and even cancer in China caused by consuming rice grown with river waters that are dangerously polluted. Such river pollution does not appear to be isolated cases, and instead are not uncommon. Like it or not, bad news travels faster than good news and this applies universally to business everywhere. Consumers do not spare domestic (American) suppliers either and slap product liability suits on the producers and suppliers.
At the conclusion of the Dialogue, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the Co-Chair of the Dialogue stated that the talks were instructive and constructive. U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, as well as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Mike Leavitt participated in the Dialogue. Leavitt stated that Product safety “engages at a deeper, more visceral level than other issues.” One of the helpful outcomes of these consultations is that there will be more bar coding and tracking of food grown in China. Discussions under third Strategic Economic Dialogue was also expected to bring China and America closer on issues such as the undervalued Chinese currency of Yuan with a view to give a leg up to Chinese exporters.
Dr. S.V. Char
Editor of Academic Resources, ICA Institute