China’s Melamine Woes Likely to Get Worse

Time Magazine looks back at the crisis over product safety in China and around the world in 2007, and asks why nothing changed since then:

A year later, that foreign criticism of China’s food safety problems doesn’t seem so groundless. Now Chinese consumers are asking why the government can’t seem to get control of a problem like toxic foods, or even a specific contaminant like melamine that has now become painfully common. “Everyone has asked why this country that can send an astronaut into space and have the most successful Olympic Games cannot provide safe milk to its own children,” says Dali Yang, director of the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Chicago. While Yang acknowledges that ethical failures in the Chinese dairy industry led to the current crisis, the ultimate blame still falls on the government. “Fundamentally it is an issue of government responsibility. In any society you can hope everyone acts with good intentions, but you cannot trust them to always do that,” he says. ” The greatest irony is that with all the international criticism last year, they knew there were problems. They did some spot checks, but the bureaucratic system didn’t pick this up as a significant issue.”

It is the spotty nature of the enforcement mechanism that is causing the biggest headaches.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that the use of dangerous substances in milk is an “open secret” in China’s dairy industry, while Chinese officials insist that recently discovered contaminated eggs are an “isolated case.”

November 4, 2008 12:08 PM
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Categories: Sci-Tech, Society