Thursday, June 14, 2007

Our Honeymoon with Walmart and China

Even though many Americans experience a pang of angst when shopping at Walmart, knowing that many of the items we buy there, like televisions, toys and clothing, are made in China, and we would rather be supporting American companies with our purchases, still the lure of unbelievably low prices cannot be overcome. I know; I just bought a 32” HDTV set there for $498.

The predisposition of Walmart to resell so many items from China, together with their low profit margins and their incredibly efficient inventory-management system are what makes Walmart so successful, and its customers flocking back. A problem is beginning to emerge, however, as we learn that some of the consumables from China contain poisonous materials, and that China’s inspection systems and concerns are laughable.

These problems first showed up in pet food, and the inquiries triggered by the pet food tragedies have turned up case after case of deaths and illnesses of human beings in other countries due to the consumption of Chinese products.

In our e-mail group we are fortunate to have John E. Carey, a retired naval officer who also writes extensively, and who has looked into this problem:

China Killed Your Dog; Now You and Your Kids are at Risk Too
Fixing a corrupt system with up to 1 billion players

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
June 14, 2007

On April 1 of this year I wrote a commentary essay under the headline “China Killed Your Dog.” I said at the time that the mainstream media seemed to be brushing this story under the carpet.

The red meat of “China Killed Your Dog” is this: Chinese food manufacturers use all kinds of inexpensive products as filler and other agents in things like pet food, soy sauce, toothpaste and chewing gum.

The pet food was largely poisoned by a product called melamine, which is used in fertilizer and plastics, mixed with wheat glutin. Using this formula, Chinese manufacturers reduced production costs while still charging cutomers top dollar: as if beef had been used in the pet food.

Melamine is a prohibited substance in American pet food according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, melamine is a widely accepted fertilizer in China. And farmers mix it into livestock feed, pet food and other products because it is plentiful, inexpensive and usually undetected.

When the New York Times reporters in China followed up on this story, they asked some farmers why China couldn’t just stomp out those few using melamine. Farmers told them everyone used melamine this way since the 1950s. The use of melamine is not restricted to a few isolate production houses: it is everywhere in Chinese agriculture.

Since April, there have been several additional revelations about how China produces food and just about everything else. American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have been spot checking to see where Chinese manufacturers cut corners and endanger consumers.

What followed was a series of discoveries of wrong-doing on the part of Chinese manufacturers.

Cold medicine made in China killed 51 people in Panama. The product was found to contain glycerin.

Chinese toothpaste was found to contain diethylene glycol. This is a close relative to the anti-icing spray used on aircraft in winter time and it is know to be poisonous.

And yesterday the CPSC recalled Thomas Train pieces manufactured with lead paint.

The world has known that lead paint is toxic for decades.

Chinese officials made a great show of saying they would provide “100% inspection of all exports.” Of course this is a ridiculous and unworkable plan.

FDA and CPSC officials tried to explain to the Chinese of “building quality into the product from the start.”

This built-in quality idea, of course, came from Japanese auto makers. When Japan began to make higher quality cars than Detroit, Ford, GM and other manufacturers went to Japan to learn why. The Detroit auto men claimed to have the best post production quality inspection and control system on earth. The Japanese said they had very limited post production inspection. The Japanese built the quality in from the start.

This concept horrifies the Chinese. With a population of 1.3 billion and at least 700 million people (China has 200 million migrant workers alone) involved in product production, manufacturing and agriculture; how can China rapidly change the manufacturing culture?

They cannot. This is why the “Culture of Corruption” is of such concern.

China can't just paper over this problem the way it usually does during any crisis. No charm offenive will work. China has to start to turn the ship of state toward honest and integrity or its economy will suffer. This thaght must be a nightmare for Chinese leadership. John. E. Carey

It seems to me that Walmart’s customers across the board should demand that Walmart scrutinize any Chinese product it offers for sale that is consumed or placed next to the skin, and we customers should also boycott such products until we are assured of their safety. I realize that this will hurt Walmart, whom I greatly admire, but this is serious stuff.


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At 4:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the demand for inspection of quality control in manufacturing.
I also feel that slowly introducing Capitalism into Communist China will bring about the same results as with the Soviet Union.

It essentially brings out both the best of man and some of the worst.

The Free Enterprise system drives freedom as well. It also does generate impure foods, etc.

If we travel to most larger cities in the Northeast such as Fall River, MA and visit the Textile Museum near the Battleship Mass. we will see lifesize wall photos showing young children working in Textile Mills.

No doubt these kids contracted Brown Lung disease and worked long hours at low pay.

But thing gradually got better and the Economic status of an entire generation grew with those Jobs, and eventually government regulators and Unions demanded healthy workplaces.

Perhaps Wal-Mart is part of our plan to take over China.


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