China’s Tainted Reputation

Call me paranoid but I am careful about what I allow in my house. When I buy toys for my son I actually look to see where they are made. The same with clothing. And ditto for food items. Although I consider these actions quite sound, there is a kink when it comes to execution.

You see, I try to buy safe items. The lead paint toy scare made me steer clear of toys from China. This was something I tried to do anyhow preferring USA manufactured items. The same for clothing items considering the ridiculously low wages I knew that many companies paid their workers. As for food, well, I try to buy produce that is grown close-by so that it’s more nutrient rich. Of course I think that my success rate in all of these endeavors is somewhere in the single digits; it feels as if every item on the store shelf is imported. Heck, trying to find a toy not made in China is like trying to find the leprechaun at the end of the rainbow.

ChinaWhen the lead paint issue became, well, an issue, it was a clear signal that some piece of our regulation process wasn’t working. When it comes to safety, regardless of who blows the whistle, China or America, the whistle needs to be blown before people are harmed.

Recently China has been involved in another safety faux pas. In the BMJ article, China’s tainted infant formula sickens nearly 13,000 babies, the details are spelled out. 104 children are seriously ill and four children have died because melamine was in the formula. A WHO adviser for food safety recently stated:

…for infant formula, given the heavy reliance on this as a food by small infants, it would be particularly prudent for competent authorities to closely monitor the product for contamination…

You think?

Am I ridiculous to worry about the safety of Chinese imports considering these two recent instances of negligence? Especially considering the fact that both of these cases involved items that are used by children.

If so, call me ridiculous.

I know that tainted food and dangerous products can originate from anywhere. And I realize that the tainted formula doesn’t affect consumers in the U.S. But considering the fact that we import so much from China and other countries; considering the fact that twice in the last year items made in China were found to be so unsafe; I think my hesitance is founded.

So yes, I am careful about what I let into my house. Government systems and regulation departments do not ensure the safety of imported, or domestic for that matter, products.


J. Parry (2008). China’s tainted infant formula sickens nearly 13 000 babies BMJ, 337 (sep24 1) DOI: 10.1136/bmj.a1802

J. H. Tanne (2008). Efforts to reduce US trainees’ hours were ineffective, study says BMJ, 337 (aug05 2) DOI: 10.1136/bmj.a1140

J. R. White

J. R. White is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. She has over five years of experience in education and pedagogy.
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