China Steps Up Scrutiny of U.S. Food
( Newsvine )) China has sharply increased inspections of imported U.S. food, escalating a dispute with Washington over product safety and leaving American beef piling up in warehouses and delaying shipments of black pepper and other goods.
Authorities who used to inspect as little as 5 percent of imported goods now check every shipment of American poultry, snack foods and other products, companies and trade groups say.
"I suspect they are doing this to keep the pressure on the United States to relent on some of these (food safety disputes), because the U.S. is taking a very tough stand on Chinese products," said James Rice, the China country manager for Tyson Foods Inc., the world's largest meat processor.
Chinese authorities banned chicken imports from two Tyson plants in June after salmonella was found in shipments from them, Rice said. But he said the company, which sells about $200 million worth of chicken to China every year, still was allowed to import from its 167 other facilities.
The stepped-up inspections are the latest volley after a series of large-scale product recalls - from bad pet food to dangerous toothpaste and toys - raised scrutiny of Chinese-made products in the U.S.
On Saturday, Beijing said it rejected 18.4 tons of American pork because it contained ractopamine , a drug that is used by U.S. hog farmers to produce leaner meat but is banned in China.
The United States restricted imports from China of five types of seafood in July after tests found unapproved drugs - a move that Beijing criticized as improper and excessive.
The tougher Chinese inspection regime is forcing importers and retailers to adjust shipping and delivery schedules, although so far they say the delays have not harmed their bottom lines.
But the moves add to tensions in a relationship that is strained by China's multibillion-dollar trade surplus with the United States. Chinese officials have suggested the U.S. government might be using safety concerns as an excuse to block imports from China.
A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman declined to comment on whether Washington has complained about the increased inspections.
China is a major market for U.S. soybeans and chicken - although there appeared to be no immediate effect on soy shipments - and sales of citrus, beef and processed food also are growing.
It is unclear how much U.S. food has been rejected in China's latest campaign or whether the rate has increased. China's product safety agency, the Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, did not respond to a request for comment.