WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) chaired a Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) hearing on “Food and Drug Safety, Public Health, and the Environment in China.” The recent bird flu outbreak, reports of dead pigs and contaminated food products, and dangerous levels of air pollution, have raised concerns among both China's own citizens and American consumers about the Chinese government's ability to cope with these problems. Brown issued the following statement after today’s hearing:
“Americans today might be surprised to learn just how much of their food and drugs are made in China,” Brown said. “This increased reliance on China has had grave consequences for Americans. Health and safety lapses in China have tainted the products it produces and that we consume. To ensure the health and wellness of American consumers, the Chinese government must be more responsive to the concerns of the international community and allow its production to be more transparent and give its citizens basic human rights. Congress also needs to closely examine trade agreements to ensure we do not sacrifice food safety.”
The hearing specifically addressed transparency and accountability in China as they relate to public health, food and drug safety, and environmental pollution issues. In recent months, news of an avian influenza outbreak in China, rat meat sold as lamb in China, nearly 20,000 dead pig carcasses found floating down rivers near Shanghai, air pollution in some parts of China rivaling the deadly London smog incident in the 1950s, and soil contamination that may be so bad that authorities have refused to make data public, have garnered widespread attention and concern.
Today’s hearing featured testimony by:
- Dr. Anne Schuchat, MD (RADM, USPHS), Assistant Surgeon General, United States Public Health Service; Director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Dr. Steven M. Solomon, DVM, MPH, Associate Director for Global Operations and Policy, Office of Global Regulatory Operations and Policy, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
- Dr. Jennifer Turner, Ph.D., Director, China Environment Forum, Woodrow Wilson Center
- Dr. Yanzhong Huang, Senior Fellow for Global Health, Council on Foreign Relations; Associate Professor and Director, Center for Global Health Studies, Seton Hall University
- Mr. Tony Corbo, Senior Lobbyist for the Food Program, Food & Water Watch
During the hearing, Brown asked the panel of witnesses a series of questions that inquired into the extent that China has been forthcoming to its citizens and the international community about incidents involving pollution, food and drug safety, and public health hazards; the extent of Chinese cooperation with U.S. officials and the international community on these issues; and how much freedom do Chinese citizens, consumer groups, lawyers, and the media have to monitor and report on these issues and advocate for enforcement of the law and official accountability.
According to the CECC, Congress created the Congressional Executive Commission on China (CECC) in 2000 to monitor China's compliance with international human rights standards, to encourage the development of the rule of law in the PRC, and to establish and maintain a list of victims of human rights abuses in China. The Commission submits an annual report to the President and Congress on these subjects.
Brown has long fought to ensure that Ohio citizens aren’t negatively affected by Chinese food and drug safety lapses. In April 2012, at a Senate Appropriations hearing, Brown pressed the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Dr. Margaret Hamburg, over tainted pet treats. Following an increase in tainted pet treats from China connected to animal deaths and illnesses, Brown repeatedly urged the FDA to take quick action to protect consumers and pet owners. He sent letters to the FDA urging the agency to promptly pursue efforts to find the contaminant in these pet treats and ensure that they were pulled from store shelves.
In February 2012, in a meeting with a bipartisan group of senators and Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, Brown pressed Xi on the widening U.S. trade deficit, and China’s growing list of intellectual property violations, food safety lapses, and human rights abuses. Brown asked how American leaders can assure American companies – who also do work in China – that speaking out against Chinese human rights abuses, food safety lapses, and intellectual property violations would not result in retaliation.