Food from China

The safety of foods, medicines, and other products from China is the subject of a recent report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), which also discusses congressional criticisms of China's food safety system and U.S. safeguards of food imports. According to the report, when the values of food, agricultural, and seafood products are combined, China is the third largest supplier to the U.S. after Canada and Mexico.

The two primary federal agencies responsible for food safety are the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the Dept. of Agriculture (USDA). On June 28, 2007, in what CRS calls "perhaps the most significant move to date," the FDA issued Import Alert #16-131, ordering "Detention Without Physical Examination" of five aquaculture products from China: catfish, basa (related to catfish), shrimp, dace (related to carp), and eel. The FDA has also provided a Q&A on the import alert.

The report notes the various bills that have been introduced in Congress concerning China imports and U.S. food safety measures, as well as for quicker implementation of country-of-origin labeling (COOL).

Food and Agricultural Imports from China, CRS Report RL34080 (pdf, 18pp/132kB, from Open CRS), July 17, 2007

Labels: ,


New for The Reading Shelf

Recently added to The Reading Shelf:

Hooked: Ethics, the Medical Profession, and the Pharmaceutical Industry (347 pp.), by Howard Brody, a physician and medical ethicist at the University of Texas.

From the Introduction: This book aims to:
  • describe the present relationship between the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry
  • assess that relationship from the standpoint of ethics and policy
  • where the problems are identified, suggest positive changes
(New York Times book review)

First Among Nisei: The Life and Writings of Masaji Marumoto (266 pp.), by Dennis M. Ogawa, professor of American Studies, University of Hawaii.

Marumoto was the first Asian to graduate from Harvard Law School and to serve on the supreme court of any state or territory. This account of his life and career is based on oral histories and his writings, which include excerpts from a diary he kept as a 14-year-old and letters he wrote home during World War II.

(Press release in the Advertiser)

Labels: , ,


Recent GAO reports

BIOFUELS: DOE Lacks a Strategic Approach to Coordinate Increasing Production with Infrastructure Development and Vehicle Needs, GAO-07-713 (pdf, 56pp/1.4MB), June 8, 2007

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found limited progress in the production and distribution of biofuels. Some of the challenges:
  • in 2006 the wholesale price of ethanol was 33 percent higher than gasoline
  • whether the rail industry, by which biofuels are generally transported, can meet the growing demand
  • in early 2007, only 1 percent of U.S. fueling stations offered E85
  • for flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) to have an impact on biofuel use, E85 must become less expensive and more widely available.
GAO recommends that the Dept. of Energy (DOE) develop a comprehensive strategy for increasing biofuels and vehicle production and developing biofuel infrastructure.

Related FR posts:
     Ethanol - 100 billion gallons by 2025? 8-23-06
     Ethanol - background and policy issues, 3-9-06

AVIAN INFLUENZA: USDA Has Taken Important Steps to Prepare for Outbreaks, but Better Planning Could Improve Response GAO-07-652, (pdf, 60pp/3.2MB), June 11, 2007

GAO reports on steps the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) has taken for outbreaks of a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza (AI), H5N1. For this study, GAO visited 5 states (California, Delaware, Maryland, Texas, and Virginia) that have experienced outbreaks in the last 5 years. Since the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for emergency planning and response, GAO urges USDA and DHS to better coordinate their roles and responsibilities.

INFLUENZA PANDEMIC: Efforts to Forestall Onset Are Under Way; Identifying Countries at Greatest Risk Entails Challenges, GAO-07-604 (pdf, 78pp/3.5MB), June 20, 2007

According to GAO, the risks of avian influenza causing an influenza pandemic in humans depend on a country's environmental and preparedness risk factors: the presence of AI in that country or a neighboring country, and high-risk poultry farming practices, and the capacity to control outbreaks.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has categorized countries by level of risk.

Related FR post:      Pandemic flu effects - from macro to you

SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS: Use is Widespread and Protection Could Be Improved GAO-07-1023T (pdf, 18pp/260kB), June 21, 2007

This testimony addresses: (1) use of SSNs by government agencies, (2) use of SSNs by the private sector, and (3) vulnerabilties that remain to protecting SSNs. It notes that in April 2007, the President's Identity Theft Task Force released a strategic plan to combat identity theft.

Labels: ,


Congress and climate change

On June 27 Reuters reported that the U.S. House passed a bill "recognizing the 'reality' of climate change," increasing federal funding for research on climate change, and establishing a new commission to address scientific questions.

The bill is HR 2643 (pdf). Title V therein (p. 111, et seq.) expresses "the sense of the Congress" that there should be a program of limits on greenhouse gases. The new commission is established in Title II (at p. 56).

In a related matter, on June 25 the Congressional Research Service (CRS) published a report on the the role of carbon dioxide in climate change. Recognizing that "Congress is considering several legislative strategies that would reduce U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases--primarily carbon dioxide (CO2)," CRS examines the global carbon cycle, which is the exchange of carbon between the atmosphere, the oceans, and Earth's land surface. From the Summary:
Less than half of the total amount of CO2 released from burning fossil fuels during the past 250 years has remained in the atmosphere because two huge reservoirs for carbon--the global oceans and the land surface--take up more carbon than they release. They are net sinks for carbon. If the oceans, vegetation, and soils did not accumulate as much carbon as they do today, then the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere would increase even more rapidly. . . .

Congress may opt to consider how land management practices, such as afforestation, conservation tillage, and other techniques, might increase the net flux of carbon from the atmosphere to the land surface.

The Carbon Cycle: Implications for Climate Change and Congress, CRS Report RL34059 (pdf, 14pp/240kB, from Open CRS), June 25, 2007

Labels: , ,