Thursday, August 16, 2007

How Many More Recalls Until We Stop Outsourcing to China?

Recalls are an inevitable byproduct when you're in business, but China's recent rash of export malfunctions in the past few months makes me wonder if doing business in China is worth the hassle, not to mention consumer deaths.

While for decades we've ignored poor work practices and horrendous environmental crimes in the country, we now can't ignore the dangerous products imported from them. How many more recalls need to happen before we realize that the money saved on outsourcing just ain't worth it?

It all started with bad gluten. This March, after family pets started dropping dead after scarfing down their meals, the F.D.A. found a poisonous food additive in millions of cans of popular pet food. The dangerous wheat gluten came from China, along with cyanuric acid, a chemical used in swimming pools, which may have also been added to the foods to increase profits.

In June came a recall of contaminated seafood. According to the New York Times:

The F.D.A. said it decided to take the action after years of warnings and even a visit to Chinese fish ponds that resulted in no signs of improvement. But Dr. David Acheson, the F.D.A.’s assistant commissioner for food protection, stressed that the seafood posed no immediate health threat, though long-term consumption could result in health problems.

Years of warnings?! Shouldn't the food have been temporarily banned once they found a potential problem? Wouldn't a halt in imports of the seafood by the US be the best way to convince these companies to clean up their act?

Then came light-truck tires made in China which were missing or had inadequate gum strips, which help keep tires on the road. The faulty rubber led to two deaths.

And now Mattel, who sent its Chinese manufacturer appropriate lead-free paint, found out their Cars toys were fully leaded, a second blow after recalling lead-tainted toys made in China earlier this month.

Why aren't US companies more involved with what happens once they send out their product schematics? Why are we importing from companies we know aren't producing food up to our regulation standards?

A few weeks ago Business Week ran a cover story on China's vulnerability as a rising superpower as a result of ignoring foreign relations issues regarding the environment and its business practices. I highly recommend it.

We are currently watching a country with so much potential squander opportunities because of greed. It's a lesson the US should take to heart.