Our family went to our local Red Robin Restaurant to celebrate our 10 year olds birthday. Before they brought the menus we knew what the 5 year old would order – fried chicken strips and french fries – the most popular restaurant meal for American kids.
For our kids, this is a special occasion treat. But that will change if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decision permitting the importation of chicken products from China becomes final. That ruling would allow US restaurants to serve chicken products produced in China without warning customers. We wouldn’t take the risk. Our kids would be ordering burgers and fries or “fish and chips”!
Myopic, Inconsistent, Unaccountable Bureaucracy
The FDA draft rule serves only one purpose – appeasing the Chinese food processing industry in the slim hope of increasing US beef exports to China. This is what passes for rational judgment in the minds of unaccountable, myopic, unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.
If the government were better organized all food production, food safety, and food distribution and trade functions would be housed in one agency – rather than the current half dozen or more. A proposal to modify the existing ban on Chinese poultry imports into the USA should be subject to a comprehensive scientific, safety and economic review before being approved by a single agency head. In this way, a cross functional review would flesh out the potential hazards and propose mitigation strategies or, possibly, conclude that taken on the whole – importing cooked chicken products from China is not in the collective national interest of the USA.
Health and Safety
You’ll recall just a few months ago, the administration was warning that the so-called budget sequester would reduce US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and FDA daily food inspections and put the US food supply at risk. There would be fewer inspectors in major USA food processing plants on any given day. Not zero inspectors – fewer inspectors. As a result, food borne illness would skyrocket, we were told. Thankfully, the predictions were wrong.
Now, the very same FDA is saying Americans can safely eat chicken products imported from China without ANY USDA or FDA food processing inspection. Chickens grown in the United States or Canada, under USDA inspection, could be shipped to China for processing into cooked chicken products and re-imported into the United States without inspection or any consumer warning label. The FDA is proposing to trust the Chinese factory managers to self-inspect.
During the recent California Foster Farms salmonella outbreak, consumers learned that chicken not cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees can still spread salmonella if it is later used as an ingredient in prepared foods – soups, pasta dishes, etc. Hypothetically, an FDA inspector at a Campbell soup plant in the USA would have no way of knowing whether the chicken ingredient – diced and cooked in China – being added to the soup caldron was safe for consumption or not!
More alarming, still, the FDA acknowledges it is possible that Chinese factory owners might substitute Chinese raised chickens for the American raised meat during the processing. This would risk the spread of disease (Avian Flu) into the USA food supply. The FDA has pronounced the risk “minimal”.
Shouldn’t the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) decide what level of risk from imported food is acceptable? Once a risk is detected in the USA food supply how would it be traced back to its origins?
Economy and Jobs
No analysis was done to determine the number of (or probability) of new beef producing jobs needed to off-set the eventual job losses in the chicken industry. The analysis was not done because it’s not the FDA’s concern.
Any net loss of USA poultry processing jobs would reduce the size of the American economy by the value of jobs lost plus the cost of the cooked chicken ingredient re-imported – an export of USA dollars.
What makes the American economy grow is not consuming another nation’s labor but consuming more products that are made by American labor. The more Americans produce and consume at home the faster the US economy grows. Every USA job whether $10/hr or $100/hr adds to the cumulative demand for goods and services – that’s real economic growth. Organic growth will cause wages to rise to satisfy the demand for labor – much more effectively than the intervention of government.
Trading exports for imports does not grow the economy – especially if one of the exports is certain to be US jobs. Exports are the accelerator after domestic demand is satisfied. But that’s the job of the Department of Commerce not the FDA!
Inefficient, Ineffective Government
The possibility that It’s ineffective, inefficient bureaucratic bungling could result in such authentic Chinese (cooked chicken) in your chicken salad is an illustration of how our government operates daily – narrow bureaucratic silos of function, unaccountable and out-of-date. expensive, wasteful – dangerous to our economic and social national security – it’s unacceptable in the second decade of the 21st century.
If you’re not fed up yet, you should be!
Photo Credit: KHOU Houston
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