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.