02 May

Health, cheap food, and the race to the bottom

Human food chain consumed tainted pet food

Unsurprisingly, adulterated pet food entered the food chain and was consumed by millions (see Feds: Millions have eaten chickens fed tainted pet food).

Expect to see more like this - the competition to extract more profit out of cheaper food by any means is in high gear. Read more ...

In the cold war times, the second world everything was adulterated - watered down useless antibiotics, contaminated meat, vegetables poisoned by inappropriate pesticide - all for more cash with low chance of reprisal.

Flawed economies suffer from optimizing out controls like health agencies, legal systems, and market traceability. It's all about what you can get no matter what you do.

Years earlier there were stories of how Chinese companies had sold fake anti-malarial drugs, doctored to pass tests and fake efficacy, but be cheap to make and useless. These have claimed many lives, poisoned the market for real drugs, and made it impossible for health workers to sort out fake from real. Now this has broadened to all other markets.

Its not strictly a "Chinese" problem - its just easiest given history and culture. With globalization, it can occur anywhere, even more around as controls attempt to "zero in" on such subversion. In China and in Soviet Russia, the occasional crackdown of killing or sending to the Gulag a few now and then was the only control. While a lowest cost approach that any true Republican could admire, more costly and effective measures like a real legal system, and more honest, less bribed health inspectors seem to be out of the realm of possibilities for globalization.

The chief advantage of globalization is not low cost labor, its absence of controls, and thus the biggest "unfair advantage" - so why are we surprised when it isn't used fairly?

So now the game is "cat and mouse" - we'll inspect and they'll evade. Then we'll have another disaster, and then we'll find out how they evade, adapt inspections, and they'll evade again. What ends this game?

Have foodstuffs actually be eaten by animals, and track actual health against absolute source of food. Which is far more expensive to effectively implement than the cost reduction of production outside the US, which eliminates the advantage of globalization.

Which is why we're in for a long cycle of quality challenges and frauds with globalized products and services.

Temporarily, "near-shoring" allows us to get a halfway deal with countries nearer to us in legal/controls/culture, yet not necessarily as cheap as elsewhere. Its temporary because competitive cost pressure makes the obvious market opportunity that some cannot resist - thus restarting the cycle once again. And so it goes.

Posted by william at 22:44 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
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