When it comes to purchasing products with the label "Made in China", Caveat Emptor--let the buyer beware. Generally, consumers equate these three words with cheap and shoddy products. Now, "Made In China" also spells "Danger".
The list of defective Chinese goods is long, from pet food containing melamine to toothpaste tainted with antifreeze, Five types of imported seafood were found to be laced with chemicals and, although no fatalities or illnesses have been reported in the U.S. yet, Chinese counterfeit glycerin found in cough syrup has been linked to more than 100 deaths in Panama.
In the wake of the US stepping up testing of Chinese products, the Chinese government reports that it closed 180 food plants and discovered 23,000 safety violations. Most disturbing is the amount of defective Chinese goods that have slipped through US investigators' safety nets.
In 2003, leaders in China formed the State Food and Drug Administration but the agency was riddled with problems, from weak investigative procedures to corrupt officials. First director Zheng Xiaoyu was convicted of taking bribes from domestic pharmaceutical companies to approve untested medicine and was later executed.
The FDA in the United States also has its problems. Lack of funding and competition with 11 other federal regulatory agencies make it almost impossible to police our food supply.
China has recently risen to be one of the world's top agricultural exporters: in just four years, from 2002 to 2006, FDA-regulated foods imported from China more than doubled and experts predict the number to triple by the end of 2007.
Chinese foods are pervasive in most American kitchens; from additives such as xanthum gum (used as a thickener in dairy products, salad dressings and most frozen foods including ice cream) to preservatives such as ascorbic acid (Vitamin C). Most breakfast cereals are made in China.
Companies such as Kellog and General Mills are just now beginning to test additives such as wheat in their products. (Menu Foods pet recall found melamine in wheat glutenâ"a discovery that sounded the alarm bells to potential dangers in human food supply.) Recently, Veggie Booty was recalled after an outbreak of salmonella was traced back to the snack food. According to the US maker, salmonella was found in a spice imported from China that was used to season the snack food.
China produces 80 percent of the world's toys, some of which contain lead paint. Soon after Target recalled about 200,000 Kool Toyz action figures because of sharp edges and lead contamination, Toys "R" Us discovered that the same Chinese company that manufactured those toys also made the Elite Operations figures in its stores. More recently, Mattel Inc., the world's largest toymaker, recalled 1.5 million China-made Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer and other children's products as they might contain "excessive levels" of lead. Eighty-one other types of Fisher-Price branded toys sold in US stores since May 2007 are included in the massive recall.
And lead paint isn't restricted to toys: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled children's jewelry from China that potentially could cause lead poisoning.
In June 2007, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration ordered a recall of 450,000 defective radial tires for pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles and vans. A New Jersey importer notified officials that its Chinese manufacturer had stopped including gum strips, a safety feature that holds the tire together and prevents it from separating.
(Tread separation led to the recall of millions of Firestone tires in 2000; this particular tire failure was linked to an increased risk of rollover of light trucks and SUV's.)
The faulty tires are believed to have caused a car accident in Pennsylvania in August of 2006 that killed two people. A lawsuit filed by the families alleges the accident happened because the tire lacked the gum strip. The lawsuit alleges the Chinese company removed the critical gum strip after the initial test tires were manufactured. Consumer advocates said this case exposes significant loopholes in the system that regulates products in the United States.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called for a full investigation into the importation of the defective tires.
The New Jersey tire importer sued the manufacturer of the tires, Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber, in a New Jersey court. The Hague Convention is a policy which allows foreign corporations to be sued in different countries. Tire manufacturer Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber has been served under the Hague convention.
As well, a number of lawsuits have been filed against importers of Chinese products. Menu Foods, the Ontario pet food maker whose Chinese-sourced product contained melamine, faces more than 100 class action lawsuits. A proposed class action has been filed against the distributor of various Thomas & Friends™ wooden railway toys.
As long as companies continue to import Chinese goods, it is inevitable that more class actions will be filed.
Chinese Defective Products ArticlesChina Recall: Kids II Play Blocks with Excessive Lead Paint
It is a well known fact that kids will put things in their mouths - that's what kids do. And to think that our kids are putting defective products into their mouths, and toys containing lead paint, is cause for certain alarm. Once again, news that toys made in China are being recalled for a lead paint hazard. This time, Kids II is recalling Baby Einstein Color Blocks due to excessive levels of lead paint.
China Recall: KB Toys with Excessive Lead Paint
In spite of efforts by Chinese authorities, and importers of Chinese products to keep a watchful eye for the presence of defective products, the parade of defective products just keeps on coming.
Today's Recall from China: The Kolcraft Play Yard
The Runaway Recall Train Pulls in from China Yet Again: More Recalled Toys
Tainted Toys for Tots: It's All About Cutting Corners
Defective Tires: We must send a message to China
Chinese Defective Products: Deadly Consequences both in the US and China
Chinese Defective Products in the NewsAUG-30-07: The CPSC, in cooperation with Toys "R" Us Inc., announced a voluntary recall of about 27,000 Imaginarium Wooden Coloring Cases. The printed ink on the outer packaging of the wood case contains lead. Also, some of the black watercolor paint contains excessive levels of lead, which violates the federal lead paint standard. The recall involves the Imaginarium brand 213 Piece Wooden Coloring Case which includes crayons, pastels, colored pencils, fiber pens, paintbrush, pencil, water colors, palette, white paint, ruler and pencil sharpener in a light tan wooden carrying case. They were sold by Toys "R" Us stores nationwide and toysrus.com from October 2006 through August 2007. [CPSC: TOYS R US LEAD]
AUG-21-07: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. quietly stopped selling two brands of dog treats in July, after customers voiced concerns that the Chinese products may have caused their pets to fall ill, but no recall has been announced. The world's largest retailer started pulling Chicken Jerky Strips from Import-Pingyang Pet Product Co. and Chicken Jerky from Shanghai Bestro Trading on July 26. Wal-Mart also placed a computerized block on all cash registers to prevent workers from selling the products. Wal-Mart's action follows a massive pet food recall in March, when retailers began pulling products made in China that included the chemical melamine â" a contaminant that's a byproduct of several pesticides. Philadelphia television station WPVI reported last week that a woman claimed her 2-year-old Chihuahua died after eating Bestro Chicken Jerky Strips. The station reported that an autopsy found the dog died of an infection caused by toxic bacteria. [FOX NEWS: WALMART DOG TREATS]
AUG-19-07: Chinese-made products including toothpaste, seafood and pet food have caused controversy about how safe they are. [COURIER-JOURNAL: CHINESE DEFECTIVE PRODUCT]