Friday, August 03, 2007

5th of Chinese products 'sub-standard'

With Chinese made products once again in the spotlight with the recall of more than 1.5 million Fisher Price toys being recalled due to lead paint contamination [BBC], how much is the consumer at risk? Even Beijing authorities have acknowledged that up to a fifth of Chinese products are substandard [BBC] with the worst problems being identified in canned fruit, dried fish and fruit drinks. In recent months China has been criticised for exporting a number of products which could endanger life or were otherwise substandard. Earlier this year a number of Chinese made toothpastes were withdrawn from sale after some were found to contain Diethylene glycol, usually used as an engine coolant [BBC]. Prior to this recall, cat and dog food came under scrutiny after it was found some products contained Melamine, used to boost perceived protein levels. The downside was that many pet owners in the US suffered the loss of their animals as a result of the poisonous additive. Then came a US ban of Chinese shell-fish products. This came after carcinogenic chemicals were found to have been used in the farming process [BBC]. The chemicals were intended to allow prawns and other shell-fish to tolerate polluted water. The chemicals included Nitrofuran, Malachite Green and Fluoroquinolone, all of which have been identified as having serious adverse health effects in humans.
In reaction to the criticism and the ban of imports, China says it is acting to prevent the production of “fake and shoddy foods and pharmaceuticals” [BBC] and even tried to alleviate international criticism by sentencing a corrupt food and drug administration official to death [BBC].
But it is becoming a struggle for authorities to curb the increase of badly made products reaching consumers. This is damaging not only for the consumer but also for the reputation for Chinese made products.
And this week’s recall by Fisher Price is by no means the first case of lead having been found in children’s toys. In June, a recall was issued for Thomas the Tank Engine toys after lead was found in the paint.

All of these cases leave the consumer with a dilemma. There is of course a choice of not buying a ‘made in China’ product. However, they are often left without an alternative. A browse along any toy store will soon reveal that over 90% of products are made in China. And Chinese goods are not only confined to the cheaper stores; even Harrods’ teddy bears are manufactured in China. A visit to a motor store reveals the same lack of choice. In a Halfords store, most motoring accessories are Chinese made. Even ‘high-quality’ brand name products are manufactured in the PROC, the Peoples Republic of China, a label now seen on many goods. tvnewswatch has direct experience of badly made goods originating in China. A Chinese made tent broke after only ten days of use. A Sony-Ericsson mobile phone charger failed after less than two months use. A hair-clip, bought in the French superstore, Carrefour, in Beijing, and made in China, broke after less than a month’s use. A folding stool’s ‘canvas’ seat has begun to tear and the bracket to a car fan broke whilst in transit. For all these products there is no alternative. There are seemingly no British, US or European made tents, hair-clips or car fans available. A recently acquired, Chinese made, in-car compass only points north! Perhaps it should point east, since that’s where everything seems to be coming from.
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