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Safety Experts: How U.S. Should Approach China’s Tainted Imports

Friday, 6 Jul 2007 | 4:40 PM ET

The U.S. imports approximately 15% of its food -- and China is its third largest supplier.

This week, China admitted it needs to raise food safety standards to international levels, amid the recent controversy of tainted Chinese foods. Chris Waldrop, director of the food and policy institute at the Consumer Federation of America, and Michael Doyle, director of the center for food safety at the University of Georgia, discussed the situation on “Power Lunch.”

“The FDA has been woefully underfunded for the past five to seven years,” said Waldrop. “They simply do not have the resources to be able to deal with this huge wave of imports. The FDA really needs increased resources and funding to be able to keep up with this.”

Doyle agreed: “It’s important for [food processors] to make sure the ingredients in the foods that bear their label are free of harmful bacteria and toxins, as well as other problems we’re finding with foods from countries like China,” he said. “Then, it’s up to the FDA to verify that the food companies are doing their jobs and making food safe.”

Food Chain Safety
After a slew of reports about tainted seafood and pet food from China, the country admitted this week it needs to raise food safety standards to international levels, with Michael Doyle, Univ. of Georgia director of food safety; Chris Waldrop, Consumer Federation of America director; and CNBC's Sue Herera

Waldrop argued that large international companies with headquarters all over the world have the ability to control the quality of the food that is produced. He said, “They have the power to be able to tell a company that wants to provide ingredients that, 'Unless you do it the safest way and you meet our standards, we’re not going to use you.'”

Unfortunately for consumers, it is difficult to know what is in the food unless product ingredients are specified on the label. Doyle suggested, “All we can do is, if it says: ‘Made in China,’ then avoid it.”

Waldrop said that, although adding the extra ingredient information on labels “may be too cumbersome,” consumers might start demanding it -- in which case, companies will have to meet expectations.

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  • Sue Herera is a founding member of CNBC, helping to launch the network in 1989. She is co-anchor of "Power Lunch."

  • Tyler Mathisen co-anchors CNBC's "Power Lunch." Mathisen also co-anchors "Nightly Business Report produced by CNBC."

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Kenny Polcari