business news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times this morning offers a fascinating statistic that seems even more pointed considering the rash of China-related food safety issues (pet food and toothpaste, for example) that have emerged in recent months: “China manufactured every one of the 24 kinds of toys recalled for safety reasons in the United States so far this year, including the enormously popular Thomas & Friends wooden train sets, a record that is causing alarm among consumer advocates, parents and regulators.”

Another fascinating observation by the Times: “The number of products made in China that are being recalled in the United States by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission has doubled in the last five years, driving the total number of recalls in the country to 467 last year, an annual record. It also means that China today is responsible for about 60 percent of all product recalls, compared with 36 percent in 2000.” And, the Times writes, “Combined with the recent scares in the United States of Chinese-made pet food, and globally of Chinese-made pharmaceuticals and toothpaste, the string of toy recalls is inspiring new demands for stepped-up enforcement of safety by United States regulators and importers, as well as by the government and industry in China.”
KC's View:
Now, the first must be pointed that as China increases its economic and marketing muscle, it is bound to experience a higher percentage of recalls. But still, this has to be alarming.

We still think that stories like these ultimately will lead to some sort of mandated County of Origin Labeling (COOL) program, because consumers simply are going to demand it. And we know that this is an unpopular notion with a lot of people, such as the person who emailed us last week that COOL would result in “product profiling.”

As if this were a bad thing.

Consumers are entitled to informed choice. In today’s world, where the source of the product may tell us a lot about the risks associated with a product, fighting this notion is, we think, a long-term lost cause.