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Rotten Eggs Taint U.S. Trade Relations

Rotten Eggs Taint U.S. Trade
Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Russian consumer protection organization has announced that it may seek to ban poultry imports from the United States, in light of the recent salmonella outbreak from U.S. eggs. The outbreak sickened more than 1,300 people even before the recent nationwide recall, and more are likely to be affected. Or, to put it more accurately, Russia may seek to reinstate earlier sanctions on imported poultry. Since January of this year, Russia has banned poultry imports from over 80 U.S. processing plants, after Russia joined the European Union in prohibiting the use of chlorine as an anti-microbial treatment in poultry production. Russian officials agreed to partially lift the ban on the majority of poultry processors after negotiations with U.S. officials only weeks before the salmonella outbreak. So not only have lax regulations on the food industry sickened American citizens (again and again and again), but they are now to blame for lost corporate profit and decreased power in international trade. Which of those conditions is more important to you probably depends on your relation to the food industry’s profits, but neither of them are good, to say the least. The American food industry has become the corporate equivalent of a drug peddler on the street corner. It continues to push terrible, physically harmful products purely for the sake of profit, without any regard for the damage they cause. It’s embarrassing. And it’s sickening—literally. Instead of arguing with the Russian government and food safety experts about allowing in tainted product, purely in the name of protecting corporate profits (chicken retailers recently reported a slight dip in profits—as if skimming a measly few million from their normally astronomical profit margin is really going to hurt them) perhaps we should be following Russia’s lead. Why not toughen regulations on an industry which is making U.S. citizens sick? There is public outcry when tainted products are imported into the U.S.—recall the scandals of melamine-laced pet food and children’s toys imported from China—but when it’s our own industry, and our own profit margin, we just empty the refrigerator and head back to the store? It could be that our politicians are placated by the hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of lobbying efforts by some in the food industry, not to mention the billions more that corporations spend on advertising to us everyday consumers. Perhaps the problem is not one of recklessness, but rather ignorance. How many Americans can honestly say they know where their food comes from? How many actually care? If most Americans knew that their chicken has to be disinfected with chlorine before it’s deemed suitable for them to eat, would they continue eating it? I find it incredibly disturbing that a country on the other side of the globe is more knowledgeable about food processing methods inside our borders than our own citizens. And until that changes, our trade and our health will suffer.

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