Thursday, June 28, 2007

Get the lead out

Lead in baby bibs, antifreeze in toothpaste, melamine in wheat flour? What is behind the trouble with Chinese imports?

The Poisoning of America
The news that Chinese toothpaste brands sold in Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Australia contained diethylene glycol, a highly toxic chemical used in engine coolants, came as a shock to U.S. health officials. It shouldn't have.

China, as anyone who has lived there knows, has virtually no safety controls on food and drugs. At the same time, it is in the midst of a no-holds-barred drive to increase its exports, and is heavily subsidizing its manufacturers to ship container loads of cheap goods of all kinds to the U.S. and other overseas markets. As a result, over the past few years, China has stealthily become the second-largest supplier of foreign toothpaste--and many other questionable food and drug products--to the U.S. market.

U.S. health officials responded by pledging to check all shipments of toothpaste coming from China. We have even offered to send inspectors to China. (An offer that China quickly rejected.) But why should the Food and Drug Administration--and ultimately the U.S. taxpayer--have to bear the entire burden of testing suspect Chinese-made food and drugs at all?
The easy answer is we shouldn't. It should rest upon the supplier to ensure the quality of the product. When the shoe is on the other foot, who bears the burden of proof?
A single case of mad cow disease in 2003 led China to ban all U.S. beef imports. This ban remains in place today, long after temporary bans put in place by other countries have been lifted. To put it another way, China plays hardball in its trade with the U.S., while we play tiddlywinks.
Just another good reason to avoid products made in China.

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