New HuffPost Article: 80% of Vitamin C is imported from China: Is it Safe?

I recently wrote a short article for Huffington Post on the contradictions of how we are seeing rapid growth in imports of food and drugs into the US, while the US Congress is proposing to cut the budget of the Food & Drug Administration.

You can read the article here.

Three days after the House of Representatives voted to slash the FDA’s budget, the FDA reported that “80 percent of the active pharmaceutical ingredients in medications sold here are manufactured elsewhere….Nearly two-thirds of the fruits and vegetables…and 80% of seafood–eaten domestically come from outside the U.S.”

The bad news on these imports is that for foods, “between 70 and 85% of the import refusals of produce and seafood, the two largest categories of food imports, were for potentially dangerous violations including the presence of pathogens, chemical contamination, and ‘other sanitary violations.’”

Often these imports are from very small companies: “Almost half of all imports to the U.S. are the only shipment that the exporter sends in a given year. Fully 80% of imports come from companies that send 11 or fewer total export shipments each year.”

This year, the FDA plans to inspect about 600 overseas facilities, out of the 189,000 registered to produce food for import into the US. It is often difficult for the FDA to even identify the specific source of products entering the US.

And unfortunately, the countries with the fastest growth in imports of food and drugs have even less capacity to enforce health and safety laws.

So with imports and scandals rising, and government funding decreasing, the US needs – at a bare minimum – stronger requirements for food and drug traceability. In order to track problems back to their source, we simply have to know the farms and factories where these products come from.

We obviously also need better transparency into these supply chains, their production processes, and evidence that they are meeting health and safety standards.

And finally, the government should be focusing on “hot spots” in these global supply chains to identify where the biggest problems may arise, and to focus their limited enforcement capacities.

About Dara O'Rourke

Associate Professor at UC Berkeley and Co-Founder of GoodGuide.
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