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The New York Times reports that American officials, anxious to improve the safety of imported foods, have begun to examine the procedures used in Japan as a possible template for changes that could be made here.

“The Japanese have developed tough approaches for ensuring the quality of Chinese imports, particularly food — in part by far more rigorous testing of its imported food than in the United States,” the Times writes. “But the innovation getting the most American attention is Japan’s system for screening Chinese producers even before they ship their merchandise to Japan.

A report released last week by the House Energy and Commerce Committee cited Japan’s system for monitoring spinach and other Chinese food exports as a possible model for importers in the United States. Last month, a White House working group issued its own report after visiting Tokyo, and even Chinese officials have urged the United States to adopt the Japanese approach … The program is the product of Japan’s longer experience with Chinese safety problems, going back to the discovery five years ago of high levels of pesticide in Chinese frozen spinach. Americans have become more conscious of such safety issues this year, with the highly publicized recalls of Chinese-made toys contaminated with lead paint and pet food ingredients containing hazardous chemicals.”

Japan buys far more of its food from China than the United States does, the story notes.

KC's View:
This story fairly drips with irony, because the Japanese approach to food safety has been the subject of much American criticism when it comes to mad cow disease. In Japan, they test every cow for BSE, while we test a tiny fraction here. And in Japan, they remain so concerned about US beef that many Japanese stores still do not sell it.

Go figure.