What’s in your food? Imports bring quality into question, expert says


Illustration: Division of Research

The massive shift in U.S. food production eastward to low-cost countries such as China over the last 20 years has resulted in a vast and complex supply chain that has the potential to endanger the health of American consumers, according to a world-renowned expert whose presence at Texas A&M University is part of a prestigious scholarly initiative.

Aleda Roth, the Burlington Industries Distinguished Professor in Supply Chain Management at Clemson University, is visiting Texas A&M as a Faculty Fellow of the Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study (TIAS), a program that attracts eminent scholars from around the world to study, teach and conduct research alongside Aggie students and faculty.

Roth’s six-year investigation of global food supply chains has resulted in revelations that may surprise and alarm most American consumers.

“Almost a quarter of the average American’s food consumption is imported,” Roth says. “Consumers would be hard pressed to find processed foods without at least one ingredient from China.”

And while U.S. production companies may be able to cut costs by using food and ingredients from emerging market countries such as China, the potential liability is great, says Roth, because hygiene factors, worker safety, environmental practices, quality processes, treatment of animals, and regulations are known to be highly substandard as compared to Western norms.