Crack down on tainted food imports from China

When American consumers go to the store, they should be able to feel confident the food they’re purchasing is safe. Unfortunately, questions recently have emerged about whether food imported from China has been the cause of animal illness and death across the United States, and whether this threat could affect humans.

To address these concerns, I chaired a Congressional hearing last week to explore China’s food safety standards on behalf of American consumers, pet owners and farmers.

Since 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been aware of the deaths and illnesses of thousands of pets, but the cause remains unknown. In May, the FDA said reports of these illnesses had risen to include 5,600 pets and 1,000 dog deaths.

It has been suggested these illnesses are linked to pet treats from China. In response, Petco and PetSmart announced they would stop selling dog and cat treats made in China, a decision which I applauded. Pets are like family members to many owners and more must be done to ensure their food isn’t tainted.

Researchers also have explored a link between animal feed from China and porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, a deadly disease that has wiped out 10 percent of our nation’s hog population.

Causing further concern, last year, the USDA declared China can export processed, cooked chicken to the United States. This makes it possible for chicken that’s labeled as being from the United States to have been sourced in the U.S., but shipped to China for processing, before being sold back to American consumers. Clearer origin labels for food are needed so consumers can decide for themselves whether to purchase a product.

To protect the health of Ohioans and our pets and livestock, I am introducing an amendment to an upcoming agriculture bill to ask the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to update Congress on investigations into Chinese food processing facilities and their work to secure work visas for American food inspectors. Having American inspectors on the ground in foreign food facilities looking to export to the U.S. helps ensure that manufacturers are taking proper food safety measures.

Consumers deserve the peace of mind of knowing that the food they’ve purchased won’t cause illness or death. We must hold China and other nations to a higher standard of food safety in order to protect the health of our pets and ourselves.