Saturday, July 16, 2011


Whether one likes it or not there is a wide chasm dividing the developing and developed countries and no camouflage can mask this bitter truth. It is not for charity that wealthy countries are buying foods from poor nations and the former does it as an unavoidable necessity for their own survival. In to day's world no country can be 100% self-reliant, depending on others for supply of many products needed by their citizens. Take the instance of Japan, a country with limited land availability, which is heavily dependent on buying most of their food needs from countries all around the world or for that matter the US and Canada which import more than 80% of its needs for meat and fish products from Asia.

When developing countries are repeatedly being hauled up for unsatisfactory quality or suspect safety credentials of the foods exported by them, the industrialized nations do not think for a moment the historic reasons for such a situation. During colonial days those countries who had the ownership right on many of those countries under their subjugation could loot their resources shamelessly and ruthlessly and there were no reservations in consuming the foods made there vis-a-vis quality or safety! Though under WTO regime there should not be any technical barrier to trade between member countries, developed world invariably use the technical "route" probably to get favorable terms for buying the same products indicted once! If this is the attitude what will happen to the so called "free trade" regime? How can it work to the mutual benefit for all? There has to be a fundamental change in the mindset of these rich countries and they should consider poor countries as equal partners in protecting the free trade philosophy to which everybody is committed.

In a recent tirade against imported foods in Canada, it was claimed that most foods imported into the West are inferior and unsafe for consumption and locally made foods are discriminated against by the authorities there by insisting on stiffer standards while imported foods are not subjected to any severe scrutiny! What an insinuation! It is a common knowledge that most food poisoning cases in the West had their origin within the country and the broken safety vigilance systems there are unable to cope up with violations indulged by the domestic industry. Look at the recent German episode involving E.coli contamination resulting in at least 51 deaths so far and remember it was not caused by imported foods from Asia. The very feces blamed for contaminated foods from Asia was responsible for the food poisoning but the source was from German feces! They may blame Egyptian Fenugreek for the tragedy but such buck passing does not cut ice any more.

Read the arrogant statement by a western spokesman who proclaimed with a flamboyance that food producers in China regularly use untreated human and animal waste for feeding farmed fish meant for eating and for fertilizing land to grow produce and most of the cases of contamination involving imported food in the U.S. are related to fecal matter! Further it is claimed that chicken coops with as many as 20,000 birds are often suspended in rows above ponds used for farming shrimp and fish in countries like Thailand. The chicken waste that falls in the water is a nourishment for the aquatic life and provides food for the shrimp. Similarly Chinese are supposed to be using feces for raising Tilopia which is exported to the US. One wonders what is the role of FDA officials posted in China if such practices are really in vogue.

As per common sense it is incumbent for those having arrangements to obtain food products and ingredients from any third parties out side to ensure they have appropriate oversight of the food that's being produced or processed for imports into their country. It is fair to argue that those importing food from overseas, and those with production operations there, should be held responsible for the quality of food making it to any country including western markets. Listen to what the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has to say about such insinuations. A spokesperson of the agency asserted that the country's rigorous food safety requirements apply equally to imported and domestic foods. Further safety and quality of imported food is ensured through "equivalency agreements" with other countries and random inspections at various points in the supply cycle ranging from when the product first gets to Canada to the testing of food already on store shelves. If there is any genuine concern about the safety of imported foods in countries like Canada, which imports 70% of its food needs worth $ 22 billion annually from other countries, it is in the interest of that country to help the exporting countries in upgrading their safety vigilance infrastructure through technical and economic assistance on a long term basis.


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