business news in context, analysis with attitude

In an indication of the kind of food safety issues affecting Chinese producers and manufacturers, the New York Times reports about how a caterer working for the US Olympic Committee found a 14-inch chicken breast in a Chinese supermarket last year…and when he tested it, found that it contained so many steroids that an athlete who ate it would have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

The Times reports: “In preparing to take a delegation of more than 600 athletes to the Summer Games in Beijing this year, the U.S.O.C. faces food issues beyond steroid-laced chicken. In recent years, some foods in China have been found to be tainted with insecticides and illegal veterinary drugs, and the standards applied to meat there are lower than those in the United States, raising fears of food-borne illnesses.

“In the past two years, the U.S.O.C. has tried to figure out how to avoid such dangers at the Olympics. It has made arrangements with sponsors like Kellogg’s and Tyson Foods, which will ship 25,000 pounds of lean protein to China about two months before the opening ceremony, but will hire local vendors and importers to secure other foods and cooking equipment at the Games.

“The bulk of that food will be served at the U.S.O.C.’s training center at Beijing Normal University, about 20 minutes from the Olympic Green, where for the first time United States athletes will have access to their own facility providing three meals a day. The dishes served will be compliant with the U.S.O.C.’s overhauled diet plan, placing a greater emphasis on nutrition, which officials hope will boost athletes’ performance.”

KC's View:
This story may be bad news for US Olympic athletes, but it could be very good news for Roger Clemens. When he goes before Congress this week to talk about charges that he used steroids, now all he has to do is say, “I never used any needles or used steroids on purpose…but there was that Chinese chicken I used to eat before playing in important games.”

This wouldn’t be so far-fetched; after all, didn’t Wade Boggs eat chicken before every game during his entire career? (Maybe that was a steroid deal and we never suspected…)

One other note. The USOC may be able to provide good food for its athletes, but providing breathable air is likely to be an entirely different challenge. In China, the air is almost as chewable as the chicken.