Boycott Watch  
September 29, 2008
New food labeling rules won't hurt China imports, just the health of American Consumers
Summary: Will contaminated food end up on your place despite your boycott efforts?
    Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that country of origin labeling must appear on most fresh food and meats by September 30. The new requirement was part of the farm bill passed over the summer, and is geared toward helping the U.S. food industry by promoting foods made in the U.S.A. The bill exempts processed foods, but existing packaging rules have generally covered that aspect anyhow.

    Boycott Watch believes that considering the outrage Americans consumers have expressed over lead tainted and other contaminated Chinese foods, the latest of which is milk and milk byproducts, American consumers will inherently shun Chinese imported foods. Still, much of that food will still end up on the shelves at supermarkets and at your table, unknowingly.

    Companies which produce processed foods in the U.S. may still use imported ingredients, yet will be exempt from telling their consumers about the origin of the ingredients. The same applies to restaurants which also do not have to disclose the origin of their ingredients. These businesses tend to work on small margins and make their profits based on volume, so they have an extra incentive to buy the lowest cost satisfactory ingredients in order to boost their bottom line. As such, some people may think they are boycotting China-grown foods for health and safety concerns, yet still may be eating the very foods they are trying to avoid.

    Meanwhile, many Americans who were in China for the Olympics may have ingested the contaminated food while just enjoying the local culture. Boycott Watch wrote about this previously, but we probably won't know the impact of consuming local food which may have been made with such ingredients, or worse, ingredients which are so contaminated they were not fit for export.

    China has a poor record with food safety, so the food labeling requirement will be welcomed by consumers. Boycott Watch predicts lower demand by consumers for china-grown products, which will surely lead to a lower wholesale and retail prices based on supply and demand. Since no supplier wants to loose all their money on such produce, commercial food processors and restaurants will certainly pick of the consumer slack and savings, thus negating any significant price reduction. This will create an entirely new set of consumer issues which the market will address, possibly with a China-Safe label as was done with Dolphin-safe tuna labels in the 80's.

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