Update on China's Fake Alcohol Industry
Drinkers should think twice before consuming cocktails at Chinese bars. Recent reports indicate that despite the recent crackdowns on counterfeit alcohol, the legitimate alcohol industry in China is still plagued by a huge black market. This fake alcohol is usually illegally made - and completely unregulated - or, more commonly, is just a cheap but legal liquor that is then rebottled and passed off as an expensive name brand. Brown-Forman, the maker of Jack Daniel's whiskey, estimates that about 30% of the alcohol found in China is fake.
The true danger lies in the backroom production of fake alcohol. Counterfeit alcohol is made from poor-quality ingredients in deplorable conditions. Consumers could be ingesting toxic industrial chemicals that were distilled and bottled, quite literally, out of bathtubs and toilets. This could lead to serious illness or even worse in the short term, as well as a laundry list of potentially harmful long-term health problems.
This epidemic of dangerous "bathtub booze" will be hard to tackle. The Chinese government's harsh crackdown on fake alcohol production in recent years has failed. Bootleggers have gotten savvier, producing very good fake import stamps and other things to get around the legitimate channels. The Guardian, 9-16-15
Update on U.S. Imports of Chinese Chicken
The federal government has given China the green light to start exporting chicken to the United States. In 2014, the Agriculture Department told its stakeholders that it had certified several poultry processing plants in the Shandong province of China to export fully cooked, frozen, and refrigerated chicken to the United States. Raw chicken must still come from only USDA-approved countries - currently the U.S., Canada, and Chile - but many consumer rights advocates are outraged and are warning that the certifications for cooked chicken from China are dangerous.
"China's food safety system is a wreck," Food & Water Watch said in a statement. This D.C.-based interest group has been fighting the USDA on chicken from China since 2005. "There have been scores of food safety scandals in China and the most recent ones have involved expired poultry products sold to U.S. fast food restaurants based in China," the statement continued. "Now, we have FSIS (Food and Safety Inspection Service) moving forward to implement this ill-conceived decision, and it has not even audited the Chinese food safety system in over 20 months."
The USDA has repeatedly promised to audit China's food safety system every year. The last audit was performed in March of 2013. The Hill, 11-06-14.
Update on U.S. Reluctance to Raise China Complaints
Last fall the Obama administration began pushing American firms and companies to speak up about their difficulties of operating in China. They have begun urging businesses to come forward with details about cyber security breaches and other challenges they are facing in China's volatile economy. President Obama and U.S. officials have chided the Chinese over slow market growth and have threatened sanctions in response to commercial hacking, though they have offered few concrete steps to push China toward more open markets. Still, the U.S. is looking to corporations to speak up and help put pressure on the Chinese.
Recent corporate challenges in China include proposed legislation that would require companies to restrict the flow of user data out of the country or demand that U.S. firms share propriety information and back-door access with Chinese authorities. One senior U.S. official said that Beijing often acts surprised at the news of business complaints, saying that they have never heard these complaints directly from the companies themselves.
Many U.S. companies find the risks too great to speak up about problems. "Complaining is not only sort of rocking the boat politically - it's a little bit hard to complain if you're very profitable," said Bill Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council. The Wall Street Journal, 9-22-15.