Saturday, July 15, 2006

Chinese Chickens Smuggled to Troy, Michigan? What's Next?

Poultry is cheap and China is far away. You'd think that these facts alone would guarantee that smugglers could find better things to do than illegally import poultry meat from China to --- say --- Troy, Michigan.

Nevertheless, according to a report in the Detroit Free Press, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has seized almost a ton of illegally imported birds from Troy food wholesaler Tinsway Co, a supplier to about 300 Chinese restaurants and Asian grocery stores in Michigan.

A Bigger picture

What moves this bizarre event beyond the "Stupid Crooks" department is the way that the government bureaucrats handled the situation.
  • The USDA destroyed the seized meat before testing it for flu virus --- or anything else. After all, they "knew it came from an infected area."

  • The USDA waited two weeks before notifying the State of Michigan of the seizure.

  • Once notified, Michigan inspectors then scurried around searching more than a hundred restaurants and grocers that "might have been" customers of Tinsway Co. Finally, according to the investigators, no illegal meat was found.
Cockroach Theory: There's Never Just One

It's hard to see how anyone can make a buck by importing tainted poultry from China. Still, if one smuggler can find a way to make a go of it, then so can others. Moreover, in a world filled with all kinds of scary contraband, hunting down tainted poultry importers will not make it to the top of many bureaucratic to-do lists. Most of the Tinsways of America will continue to practice their chosen profession, and there is remarkably little that can be done about it.

P.S. The USDA revisited Tinsway Co two weeks after the original raid. They found 150 pounds of illegal goose guts and pig carcasses. The license of Tinsway Co has been revoked.


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