The Scary Monster is Not Shrek

June 4th, 2010 by dontai


McDonalds recalls Shrek glasses over fears of toxic cadmium levels

McDonalds recalls Shrek glasses over fears of toxic cadmium levels[/caption]

Fear not the monster Shrek, for he is not to blame. But if not Shrek then whom? The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warned consumers early Friday to immediately stop using the glasses available for purchase from McDonalds, on concerns about toxic levels of cadmium. Twelve million glasses are recalled. Who is to blame? There are at least three parties involved: McDonalds, ARC International, of Millville, NJ, and presumably the Chinese factory that produced the glasses. So common is the fact that China makes most of our products and the fact that so many toxic products have been traced back to China in the past makes this a very good educated guess.

Certainly we will not knowingly poison our children by giving them drink in toxic glasses. Certainly McDonalds or supplier ARC International would not knowingly supply toxic glasses to their loyal customers. Recalls are a body blow to a business’ reputation, expensive to rectify and very bad for business. Certainly the Chinese factory would not knowingly use toxic cadmium paint on glasses, risk their own health and factory reputation? Yet somehow this situation came to pass and now has come to light. Who is at fault and how can we prevent this from happening so often?

Let’s play the blame game.

Blame McDonald’s Corporation: McDonalds is a vile and immoral company bent on extracting the maximum amount of profit out of their addicted customers. They want to cut costs at all expense to health or quality. They gouged their supplier ARC International, who eventually buckled under the intense pressure. What could ARC do but supply what the customer wanted? What could the Chinese factory do but follow the specifications of the contract and fulfill the order with toxic cadmium paint, knowing full well it poison that will be shipped.

Blame ARC International: McDonalds drive a hard but fair deal, expecting a fair price for their order. ARC took the McDonalds order, and to increase their profit margin, twisted the arm of their Chinese factory to use the cheapest paint, even though the factory knew that toxic cadmium paint can harm people. What could the Chinese factory do but fulfill the order?

Blame the Chinese Factory: McDonalds and ARC International drive a hard but fair negotiation. The Chinese factory thought that no one would know the difference and that testing of the paint would never occur. The factory has done this before and no one noticed. They substituted the toxic cadmium paint to save costs. What the difference anyway? It’s only a small change to the specifications? Cadmium has been around for such a long time and we’re still Ok?

Further investigation needs to be done. You can be sure that the blame will be passed around like a hot potato. Certainly it is clear that the world has a problem with many products made in China. It is not possible to test all products that we import. Customs cannot even spot inspect all import shipments for contraband drugs, much less test products for toxic substances. The Chinese know this and so do everyone else.

I do not have the solution to this massive problem, but for sure quality control and penalties need to be implemented. The problem is so clearly identified. There should be a huge disincentive to whichever company is at fault here, because our health depends on it. China is a relatively uneducated country with a very different culture, moral system and standard for consumer products. Their standard is by far much lower than ours, largely because it is unregulated by the Chinese government. Factories can be unscrupulous by choice or inadvertently and benignly ignorant. Either way the result is the same: dangerous products are imported from China with little chance of being caught. As someone who is fluent in Mandarin, has a minor in East Asian studies (China/Japan) and has lived in China for a couple of years, I know enough to take nothing for granted.

One of the reasons I have stopped buying inexpensive products from Walmart and Canadian Tire is that I cannot determine the risk that these products have on my family. It seems too easy for unscrupulous companies to use toxic paints and too easy for me to be deceived. If I have the choice I will not take the risk.

Maybe I am naive, but I expect my government to protect me. Is this too much to ask?

Note: Comments to various news agencies are quite funny. Many state that McDonald’s food is by far more harmful to children than the toxic cadmium paint on the glasses. One needs to shake one’s head at their wisdom. Warning: Do not eat the food.

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