PoliBlog (TM): A Rough Draft of my Thoughts

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  1. Your main point is true enough. However, maybe I’m just being a tad suspicious, but here in Portugal there seems to have been a concerted attack on Chinese stores and restaurants. Several different public authorities have been having a field day with investigations using names such as “Operação Oriente” and the press has lapped it all up. The public authorities have been accused of “xenofobia” and I understand the point made: for example, only Chinese restaurants were targeted in the abovementioned operation.

    The way these things have happened does seem to have a racial context to it, and when one looks at the fact that the imports from these countries didn’t start yesterday, it does seem strange that suddenly almost every day something damaging to China comes out into the press.

    Regards

    Comment by james — Thursday, June 28, 2007 @ 4:36 pm

  2. Perhaps, but at least in the US context there has been no problem with people buying Chinese made products for years (despite the occasional “Buy American!” campaigns from some manufacturers). However, there was the dog food flap, the toothpaste problem, the lead paint on the Thomas the Tank Engine toys and one other example that escapes me.

    In terms of attention, my guess is that the dog food sotry has sparked more interest and therefore more news stories. And, perhaps, more inspections. I really didn’t pay much attention until the dog food story and the toothpaste story hit.

    As such, I am thinking that the Chinese do have a possible PR nightmare on their hands.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Thursday, June 28, 2007 @ 4:42 pm

  3. I agree with the PR nightmare. It was said that Chinese restaurants overall suffered a 40% - 50% fall in revenue immediately after that specific investigation (it wasn’t the first), and some were forced to close down due to lack of customers. Seeing that Portugal is fairly poor and that Chinese restaurants are just about the cheapest place one can eat out, it is clear that the food safety operations and ensuing media coverage made quite an impact.

    Comment by james — Thursday, June 28, 2007 @ 5:15 pm

  4. On the reputation thing, what percentage of consumers even pays attention to where their farmed fish or other food comes from? And in many processed foods, the originating country is not even labeled. (A source of great frustration for someone like me who really does care where stuff comes from, though I fight back by simply not buying anything that I do not know the source of, and how it was raised/grown.)

    And then there is the restaurant business… Other than at the higher end, and especially in fast food, you have no idea. Unless, of course, you ask. And demand.

    The best defense is consumer awareness and discrimination.

    Comment by MSS — Thursday, June 28, 2007 @ 6:28 pm

  5. As was said previously, the US did not just start importing things from China yesterday. I honestly can’t imagine that they just started using these ingredients yesterday either. My guess is that something has caused them to pay closer attention to Chinese imports than they have in the past. It could be dog food issue or it could be something else, but I think the key is in the inspection rate more than anything else.

    Comment by Jan — Thursday, June 28, 2007 @ 7:58 pm

  6. Matthew,

    This is true.

    However, I would argue that it is possible for a consumer backlash to develop if enough negative stories involving illness, death and poison emerge.

    Think “Peter Pan” peanut butter or the diminution in business that Jack in the Box took back in the 90s over e coli.

    Of course, it may be that country of origin issues are too broad to make a difference.

    Still, if pet owners start to think that Chinese pet food is dangerous or parents fear toothpaste of Chinese origin, it could certainly affect those sectors.

    Jan: I do think that the pet food story is what has increased the scrutiny.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Thursday, June 28, 2007 @ 8:00 pm

  7. I went to www.recalls.gov and checked out all the children’s toys that had been recalled due to the possibility of lead poisoning (there were plenty of other reason for recalls I just focused on lead poisoning). There were 8 such recalls in the list, which spanned back to at least 1994 (that was the farthest back lead related recall). There were 4 in 2007 (June 13: “Thomas & Friends”, May 30: Boyd Collection Ltd. Drum set, May 23: “Soldier Bear” toy & May 2: Anima Bamboo Collection Games), 2 in 2006 (Aug. 17: Fun Express Children’s toys & Mar. 30: American Girl Jewelry) and 2 in 1994 (Sept. 7 & Apr. 5 both involving crayons). All of these products were produced in China with the exception of the “Soldier Bear” toy (recalled May 23, 2007) which was made in Hong Kong (technically under Chinese control but with a high degree of autonomy, if I understand correctly).

    That being said, it seems plausible that the pet food recall back in March could account for the fact that half of the poisoning related recalls have come since that time. What I don’t get is why there were not any lead related recalls found between Sept. 7, 1994, and Mar. 30, 2006. Are we really to believe that they stopped using lead for 12 years and then started back in 2006? I suppose it is possible, but it just seems unlikely to me.

    Comment by Jan — Thursday, June 28, 2007 @ 10:07 pm

  8. Consumer backlash, yes. That’s precisely what I am advocating!

    Don’t trust the US government to protect you from this stuff, and by all means don’t trust the Chinese government.

    Comment by MSS — Friday, June 29, 2007 @ 6:39 pm

  9. Indeed and indeed!

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Friday, June 29, 2007 @ 7:01 pm

  10. But at least the Chinese government has a reputation to try and keep.

    Comment by james — Friday, June 29, 2007 @ 7:49 pm

  11. Would they were as vigilant wrt American food products.

    Comment by Nancy Irving — Saturday, June 30, 2007 @ 5:46 am

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