Recently I began to think about the responsibility that we as consumers have with regard to our own safety, health, and general wellness. I would like to first recap some of the most recent items of interest with regard to our relationship with China. This alliance is sometimes referred to as "China,our trading partner". Nothing could be further from the truth. There is an implied equity in any partnership and that does not exist with this trading country. The fact is that China exports many times what we export to them. And, we all know that it is about cost. The real question is whether the cost/benefit ratio is really worth the risk. And, not only to us as consumers, but to the average Chinese worker as well.
Foxconn is a major manufacturing company located in Longhua, Shenzhen, a major city in the south of Guangdong Province. It is where the iPhone, iPad, Kindle, and Wii are made, among other products bound for the US market. The facility is a sprawling, small city, with multi- story factories. The work day is 12 hours, and it is a 6 day week. Much of the assembly is still done by hand as it is cheaper than going to a machine process. The workers are young, and they are plentiful with over-population and poverty in the rural areas. But their "happiness quotient" must be fairly low as the company had to install massive netting around the lower parts of the buildings to stop workers from jumping to their death.
As far as imports go, China sends us the very worst of goods. Tainted toothpaste, lead in children's toys, fish loaded with antibiotics grown in polluted water, poisoned pet food, and more. A recent glance at the world news sites shows that pharmaceutical manufacturers are receiving ingredients that are contaminated. Much of our vitamin C, and B, are being produced with virtually no quality standards. Again cost is the driving factor. Vitamin C used to be manufactured here at a cost of $15/Kilo. Now, from China, it is $3.50/Kilo. Now comes the bad news and trends.
In the US, if we are harmed by a product we have legal recourse, and can hold manufacturers culpable. But, if the product comes from China, that option is not available. Even if there is a legal judgement here, the Chinese just disregard any claims. It is much like intellectual property protection and piracy. The only exceptions are applicable if the Chinese company has interests in the US or a country that has an agreement with our country to hold them responsible. But, it is even more difficult than simply taking a company to court. Frequently we don't even know where in China some materials are being produced. It is like a giant shell game.
So what is the answer? Ban all chemicals, ingredients for human consumption, and potential threats to our safety. China banned all beef coming from the US in 2003 during the mad cow problem. And, they never lifted the ban! It is still in effect. But to effectively ban materials coming from another country would take an active Congress that was engaged in our safety. This, as the size of the FDA inspection personnel shrinks, is really unlikely. The trend is for increased contaminated materials and total disregard for their impact on the welfare of our population. My fear is that it will take a major poisoning of America before there is any action. And then, someone will ask what went wrong? How many red flags does it take?