Latest threat from China: Chicken

Given the well-documented shortcoming of the Chinese food safety system, US Senator wants more rigorous inspections and clear labelling of Chinese chicken imports

Chicken from China has been blamed by many pet owners for the illnesses and deaths their dogs have experienced after eating treats made with Chinese chicken.

The only consolation was that Chinese chicken wasn't approved for human consumption in the United States. But that's about to change. Soon, chicken from at least four Chinese plants will not only be allowed into the U.S. but will be sold without any labelling that identifies its origin.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) thinks this is foolhardy and is demanding action from the Agriculture Department.

“Given the well-documented shortcoming of the Chinese food safety system, we shouldn’t allow unmarked meat into our markets that is processed in Chinese facilities that are not subject to food safety inspections,” Brown said in a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “This action could endanger the health and safety of American consumers and potentially undermines confidence in our nation’s food safety standards.”

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) is also questioning the policy, saying that Chinese food-safety regulations are “terrible.” DeLauro says she fears the consequences of China's use of illegal antibiotics and its ongoing problems with various strains of bird flu.

Equivalent to what?

USDA recently reaffirmed an "equivalency standard" that grants four Chinese poultry processors the ability to ship processed meat into American markets, based on the premise that the Chinese inspectors are equivalent to their American counterparts.

Under the USDA guidelines, no USDA inspector will be present in Chinese facilities and products will lack country of origin labelling. Consumers will be unable to identify whether the chicken in their nuggets, patties or canned soups is from Chinese processors.

It's not the first time Brown has played a role in food safety. During a U.S. Senate Agriculture hearing in July, Brown urged heightened scrutiny of a Chinese-subsidized company’s bid to buy Smithfield Foods. Brown emphasized that any review of the deal should consider the national security, food safety, and long-term food security implications of approving the transaction.

In 2012, Brown led the way in holding the Food and Drug Administration responsible after an Ohio family’s five-month old puppy, Penny, passed away after eating tainted chicken jerky made in China, one of many such cases reported in recent years.

In February, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it has been trying to find a cause for the widespread reports of dogs that became ill and died after eating jerky treats containing chicken from China. Without directly blaming China, the FDA noted that there has been a dramatic increase in pet food imported from China over the last ten years.

The FDA said in February that it had received about 2,200 reports of pets becoming ill or dying after eating jerky treats; 360 died. Most of those reports involved dogs, although a few cats have also become ill.

By the FDA's count, the amount of pet food imported from China has grown 85-fold in recent years, with nearly 86 million pounds of pet food being imported in 2011.

It noted that, at that time, Chinese chicken was not approved for human consumption in the U.S., which made more of it available at attractive prices for use in pet food.

Questions for USDA

In his letter to Vilsack, Brown said that American consumers "deserve to be fully informed of their product choices and should be afforded every opportunity to buy quality, American-sourced food products that support U.S. farmers and U.S.-based employment."

He posed the following questions

  • When will the first Chinese-processed poultry shipments reach U.S. ports of entry?
  • Is it true that poultry processed in China would be labelled upon reaching our shores, and possibly subject to re-inspection, but regulatory exemptions for processed poultry and meats allow labelling to be removed before these products are purchased by American consumers? If so, how might this labelling gap be remedied by USDA?
  • What additional regulatory or labelling steps might USDA take to ensure that American consumers are given all currently available information regarding supply chain safety and country of origin of their meat products (processed and unprocessed)?
  • Has FSIS requested that it be able to station its inspectors in Chinese poultry facilities when products destined for export to the U.S. are processed? If not, why not?
  • Will there be intensified port-of-entry inspection of products imported from China under the provisions of the August 30, 2013 FSIS announcement? If so, please identify those measures and the agency responsible for implementation.
  • Is USDA or FSIS also currently working toward approving the shipment of Chinese-origin poultry and other meats (processed or unprocessed) to the U.S.? If so, what is the status of that effort?
  • What if any further regulatory or administrative steps are required before FSIS decision on processing poultry in China is fully implemented?
  • Which U.S., Canadian, or Chilean poultry slaughter facilities have been identified by USDA that will ship raw poultry to China for further processing?
  • Has USDA developed or sought industry-wide data concerning the anticipated employment effects of its decisions on the U.S. based poultry and meat processing industry?




Fiscal deficit is not just a financial number

Is sustained high fiscal deficit just a financial number which the government needs to bridge? Or does it signify something worse?

India is running a high fiscal deficit which means government expenses are far higher than government revenues. Is this a benign state of affairs? Or does high deficit force the government to do things that are undesirable? The deficit is bridged by borrowing money from the market or printing new money, which the government can then spend. There is a limited pool of capital (our savings) which both the government and private sector can tap into and thus are competitors in that sense. Money printing is government’s temporary way out of tight financial situations. Fiscal deficit can also be bridged by reducing expenditure (rarely happens) or increased revenue collection by the government. What is the fallout of any of the means to bridge the fiscal gap? Consider these factors:


  • Deficit and Corruption: We have all heard and read about the scams and the quantum involved in each of them, over the last few years. Is it just a coincidence that these huge numbers have come about in a period of sustained high FD accompanied by money printing?


  • Print Money to remove the stain of corruption: But once the “print new money” button is pressed, the cost of corruption/mishandling seems low to the people/authorities responsible for the (over/mis)expenditure. It incentivises corruption and lethargy both. And, of course, creates longer term problems for future generations.


  • Demands by Revenue Dept: High deficit forces the Govt to impose stiff revenue targets on the revenue departments in a slowing economy and that’s where the problem starts, or at least it seems so. Of late, various tax departments of the Govt have been really active. Vodafone, Shell, Nokia and others have been targeted. It does look like Indian businesses, big or small, have had to spend much more time and money dealing with various revenue departments in the last few years. India has an image of not being business-friendly. The question is not whether departments are right or wrong in individual cases, but that they may reflect a basic trend of excesses by the department. Is it just a coincidence that tax authorities’ hyper-activity has made doing business even more difficult just when we are running and sustaining a high deficit?


  • Gold Imports: Govt has held gold imports responsible for India’s problems on the external front. While Indians have a gold-buying history for ages, why is it that imports which were US$10-20bn per annum from FY2005-2009 suddenly spurted after that to levels closer to US$50bn per annum? Various explanations from “black money generation” to “hedge against inflation” are used to explain the phenomenal rise in gold imports into India. Again strangely enough, huge gold buying happened just when Govt had gone overboard with its spending.


  • Populist Schemes: High deficit would generally mean large subsidies or huge populist schemes. Most of them have huge leakages and create big black markets. Funds generated in black markets obviously go to wrong hands. All activities require funds and anti-social elements are no different.


  • Religious & Emotional Appeals: Money-printing causes price rise, which clearly affects the lower strata of the society, more than the upper ones. The have-nots find it more and more difficult to fulfil their aspirations and add “manpower” to the growing “money” power created by the black markets. Is it just a coincidence that effectiveness of religion as a tool to mobilise people goes up dramatically in these kinds of times?


  • Asset Inflation: Land prices have shot through the roof and “black money” component within that is at very elevated levels, which has created its own mafia kind of eco-system. Crime in various forms has made it to the headlines much more often in the last few years than before, certainly more than in 2004-2008.


So, is sustained high Fiscal Deficit just a financial number which the Govt needs to bridge? Or is it more like a massive corroding force which percolates through the system from the top and keeps eating away at it, in many ways, weakening it with each passing day? We would like to hear your views.



Amit Singhai

3 years ago

True to a certain extend. Its largely on the set up we have built after independence with so many options to create opportunity for black market or like wise.
One thing leads to another and government need to balance both sides.
Though there is no substantial effort to reduce cost or optimize resources, which is critical in this scenario, we have learnt to live with it.

"Yada Yada Hi Dharmasya Glanirva Bhavathi Bharatha, Abhyuthanam Adharmaysya Tadatmanam Srijami Aham". You never know - the time has come.

Raghvendra Kedia

3 years ago

Printing money is de-valuing the currency and hurting industrial imports. Increasing taxes are killing the urge to earn / do business. New set of rules occupy the bandwidth of all corporates closer to the tax submission deadlines.

Good viewpoints simplying the socio-political-economic aspects bringing in the loop the failures of the Government on various fronts.

Bank unions defer 25th September strike

Following discussions between AIBEA, finance ministry, SBI and IBA, the unions have decided to defer their 25th September strike across the country

The All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) and the Bank Employees Federation of India have deferred their all-India bank strike on 25th September following a clarification from the union government and State Bank of India (SBI). According to AIBEA, the government and SBI clarified that no decision has been taken on merger of public sector banks (PSBs) or associate banks at present.


Chief Labour Commissioner (CLC) had convened a meeting between the unions, Indian Bank's Association (IBA), SBI and the Finance Ministry. During the meeting, AIBEA said it explained reasons for the strike call. "We also submitted why licences should not be given to corporate houses to start their own Banks. We also expressed our protest against the frequent utterances in the press about possible merger of Public Sector Banks, as also Associate Banks with SBI. We also demanded that the Associate Banks be de-linked from SBI and made independent Banks so that they can progress better," AIBEA said in a statement.


During the meeting, IBA stated that all these issues are of policy nature and hence they have no jurisdiction over the same. The SBI representative stated that even though there have been proposals before them, no decision has been taken at present for closure or merger of associate banks. The government representative also clarified that no proposal for merger of PSBs or merger of any associate bank with SBI has been received by them.


As regards service conditions of employees of associate banks, IBA stated that the same would be governed by the Bipartite Settlement and no unilateral imposition of any service conditions.


Following the clarifications from IBA, SBI and finance ministry, the bank unions decided to defer its strike.


The 25th September strike call was given by bank unions to protest against the government’s proposal to effect mergers among public sector banks. They are also against the merger of associate banks with SBI.




3 years ago

Welcome, yet temporary reprieve for the hapless banking public ! The unions may strike again catching the public unawares.

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