Are The Chinese Trying To Poison Us?

Editor’s Correction: The glasses being recalled at McDonald’s were distributed by ARC International North America Inc. in Millville, New Jersey. ARC International is based in France, but also has a manufacturing site in China. The NJP is still investigating at what plant the glasses were made.

McDonalds is recalling 13 million Shrek glasses that were sold at its restaurants due to potential health risks to consumers.

The painted Shrek glasses were being sold for about $2 a piece as a promotional for the new Shrek upcoming movie, but the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission ordered the recall last week because the paint used contained a pigment called cadmium — a toxic, carcinogenic substance.

The glasses were distributed by ARC International in New Jersey, though it is inconclusive where the glasses were manufactured. Last May, cadmium was found in metal jewelry sold at retail stores in the US — those were made in China. China is no stranger to exporting products that have impacted the health of consumers in the US and in other parts of the world. Numerous incidents of toxic products produced in China have made national headlines in recent years.

In 2008, consumers in the US complained to health departments about defective drywall imported from China that was making them sick. The drywall contained sulfur which causes corrosion and emits smells that produce headaches and nausea. According to a Wall Street Journal article this week, about 3,300 complaints against the drywall company have been filed.

Also in 2008, health agencies disclosed that milk and infant formula exported from China had been tainted with melamine, which if ingested can cause kidney failure. About 300,000 fell ill, 860 babies were hospitalized, and six babies died after ingesting the milk. Melamine had been added to the milk so that it would make it appear having a much higher protein content.

Empty milk and yogurt shelves in Carrefour in China. All Chinese brands seem to be banned in Chinese Carrefour stores because of the milk crisis. Chinese milk products are removed from a supermarket in China as a result of the scandal. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

A year earlier in 2007, the FDA recalled pet foods that were contained with melamine. Officials had found that ingredients that were imported from China for the pet food had been tainted with the toxic substance. The food caused renal failure in cats and dogs. As many as 3,600 pets died from the tainted product.

Toxic toys also made headlines in 2007 when Mattel recalled almost 20 million toys made in China. Some of the toys were colored with lead-base paint that exceeded US standards. Some of the toys contained 180 times more the allowed amount. Other toys contained dangerous loose magnets that children could easily swallow. The owner of one of the Chinese companies that manufactured the toys committed suicide shortly after the scandal broke out.

Many articles have been written about the Chinese government’s role in ensuring that their exports of consumer goods are safe. The country launched a PR campaign in 2007 to reassure the public that products made in their country won’t impact their health.

Agencies like the FDA and EPA have also been scolded by consumer groups to ensure Chinese companies are more compliant with US safety standards.

This latest recall of Chinese-made products could perhaps again fire up consumer advocates to demand safer imports from China and a stronger role for the US to ensure product safety.

Are the Chinese trying to poison us? No, or at least not intentionally, but if the US continues to rely on companies domestic or international to do the right thing because of some sort of ‘honor code’ that exists, consumers will be the ones paying the price.

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2 Responses to Are The Chinese Trying To Poison Us?

  1. Vote -1 Vote +1Scoop News
    June 11, 2010 at 9:56 am

    The LA Times notes that the “glasses” were made in New Jersey by the French company you mention, but that the paint was provided from France to their US plant. And that the European countries had banned more application use of cadmium, so back to China for the “paint” that was applied to the glasses. Hard to tell how many different items we may already have at home with the same paint… and only if they are “toys” would they ever be checked.

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