U.S. Companies Start Testing, Screening Chinese Products

U.S. companies are developing new safety measures in response to the continued rumbling of the Chinese Poison Train. The measures, along with renewed federal interest in food safety, suggest that we may be in the midst of a food safety revolution similar to the one that reformed the meatpacking industry after the publication of Upton Sinclaire’s “The Jungle.”

For the companies, the problem is two-fold: figuring out exactly what to test for and maintaining control over their network of suppliers, even as they turn to China for vast quantities of imports at lower prices.

Three companies are trying three different strategies to cope with the uncertain quality of China’s exports:

Testing: General Mills has started testing for contaminants. Which contaminants? They aren’t saying.
Supplier Screening: Kellogg has begun screening suppliers and is lining up alternates in case of an incident.
Product Safety Executives: Toys “R” Us has hired two new fall guys executives to oversee procurement and product safety.

Though we applaud any effort that improves the safety of our food, catching contaminants before they arrive on American shelves is the lesser half of the battle. Removing the economic incentives that encourage Chinese companies to substitute inexpensive poisons for specified ingredients is the real challenge, and not one that we believe can be addressed by new executives or random testing. What steps do American companies need to take to allay your concerns about Chinese products? Tell us in the comments.

Companies in U.S. Increase Testing of Chinese Goods
(Photo: showbizsuperstar)

Comments

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  1. enm4r says:

    I wonder if Kellogg, General Mills, or Toys R Us are filming a STING VIDEO to gather the necessary evidence before they state publicly how they are testing.

    Ben, perhaps you can look into this hypothetical STING VIDEO?

  2. TechnoDestructo says:

    “What steps do American companies need to take to allay your concerns about Chinese products?”

    There aren’t any. I may trust China to make non-load-bearing pieces of injected molded plastic, but I think we’ve had more than enough evidence that they can’t be trusted for food (though I have no way of knowing if I’m eating stuff that comes from china) or anything complex (like anything electronic more complex than a speaker…how many Chinese MP3 players have you had die?) or which will face extreme conditions (crash test videos). Assure me you use no ingredients from China, and I’ll have more confidence in your product.

    Have there even been any scandals like this from anywhere but China and Vietnam (the pho-rmaldahyde scandal)?

  3. statolith says:

    “Have there even been any scandals like this from anywhere but China and Vietnam?”

    Well, there was that American company who sold a gelling agent that it claimed was kosher and non-animal derived; turned out they were just packaging and selling gelatin. Not a health risk per se, but an example of how money-grubbing low-lifes are everywhere.

  4. XopherMV says:

    The real question is: why have US companies waited until now to test these products? These US companies should have been testing these products the whole time they’ve been outsourcing. It is completely idiotic to skip testing considering that although you can turn over your production to China, the legal liability for the bullshit that China pulls still lies with the US company.

    You can bet lawsuits will start flying over this nonsense. And I, for one, will be happy to see these companies pay.

  5. bohemian says:

    Prove to me that none of your products or product components are coming from China. They are instead coming from the US or some other developed country with production standards and oversight.

    If I don’t know and trust where it came from i’m not buying it.

  6. night_sky says:

    Even more reason for me to cook my own food and just freeze it for reuse later (I’m considering getting a bread machine as well).

    Fresh, homeade food tastes better anyway, but it does take time unfortunately.

  7. royal72 says:

    considering we’re just about done in iraq one way or another, we obviously need someone new to have drama with, so why not the chinese. is it time to break out the “made in the usa” stickers again?… and in the meantime would everyone please feel to go fuck yourselves and watch the soap network if you need your drama fix. thank you.

  8. Trai_Dep says:

    Ironically, China has hurt more Americans (well, our pets) than Iraq (until we colonized them). Something that warms the hearts of the Iraqi people, I’m sure.

  9. shoegazer says:

    Removing the economic incentives that encourage Chinese companies to substitute inexpensive poisons for specified ingredients is the real challenge, and not one that we believe can be addressed by new executives or random testing.

    Spoken like a true economics major, Carey. Unfortunately the US companies chose to abdicate responsibility for their products when they palmed off the actual manufacturing to cheap low cost areas with a less than perfect regard for human life.

    Often it’s a suit going to China and saying, “I want my pet food for $100 a ton. Who’s gonna gimme that price?”

    The short answer is that you CAN’T TRUST SUPPLIERS. EVER. I think the real way to “remove the incentives” is to put the fear of God into the US companies who put cost above any other considerations.

    I used to work for a chemicals company and the level of scrutiny of the EU food supply is unbelievable (a product of the mad cow and bird flu scares). A company who sold tainted marinade was nearly bankrupted by fines (even though I believe they tried to put the blame on their Chinese supplier). Good luck getting the US to implement anything of that sort on a federal level.

    I find the China bashing on this whole Poison Train thing amusing, but pointless. It’s too easy to organize a lynch mob for Chinese industry (or any “furriner” who dares to do things better / cheaper / faster than the West). Who remembers the “soy sauce made from human hair” hoax? If you really want to buy local, then grow your own or go to a farmer’s market.

  10. DingoDigger says:

    “Have there even been any scandals like this from anywhere but China and Vietnam?”

    You mean like the Veggie Booty thing which is on the front page of CNN.com?

  11. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Who remembers the “soy sauce made from human hair” hoax?

    Hoax? Link, please? Latest information I had was that it was thought to have been a hoax, but wasn’t actually one.

  12. Pelagius says:

    While we’re at it, can we implement stricter screening requirements for Californian produce? I mean, that stuff is full of shit.

  13. DingoDigger says:

    [www.tian.cc]

    Yes, hoax. Sheesh.

  14. Trai_Dep says:

    Like small children, cookies and sharp raps with a ruler applied to the wrist, companies that farm out their work elsewhere need to be punished when making easily foreseeable mistakes. Make companies 100% responsible, and face near-crippling fines when they screw up. Profit is the only thing they listen to, so make it so painful to their bottom line when they screw up.

    Or a Federal law requiring Chinese sub-contracted goods are tested on their own children/pets/grandparents before being foisted on the public.

  15. @shoegazer: “Good luck getting the US to implement anything of that sort on a federal level.”

    The US does have strong liability all the way back up the chain to suppliers, which provides at least SOME check/financial incentive. The problem is that while the EU operates with government fines (a very quick enforcement/punishment measure), the US’s consumer-based and court-based “enforcement” system through litigation is slow as molasses in January. And in most consumer product/food cases, nothing is or can be done until someone dies, which isn’t really a good way to regulate something!

  16. LionelEHutz says:

    You know that they aren’t testing because they’re worried about government regulation, that’s for sure.

  17. Showbizsuperstar says:

    As a long time reader I am thrilled that you chose one of my photos for your site but I want to clarify the police officers in the picture above are Japanese not Chinese.