Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Who pays for toy inspections from China?

So a toy company hires a company in China to manufacture toys. The toys get sold in the U.S. and since they're full of lead kids get injured/poisoned and one may have died because the toy company neglected to supervise its vendors or even care if the toys were safe or met U.S. standards. "The government shouldn't have let these toys into the country!" cry the toy companies and the media latches onto the idea. "If only the government were more involved in the toy industry," they cry, "then everyone would be safe from the evils of lead!" This is a letter to the editor published in Plastics News at the time of the media frenzy:
Mattel can't outsource manufacturing to a company in China and then expect us as taxpayers to be responsible for their quality control
I have to take exception to Nina Ying Sun's solution to restoring confidence in the American consumer amid the Mattel fallout. In her Viewpoint of 9/17, "U.S. must safeguard its own consumers", she suggests that rather than divvy up the blame among responsible parties like Mattel we should instead blame the U.S. government for failing to inspect and catch the defective products. Then she calls for a "focus on reinforcing or even revamping the U.S. system for safety testing and inspection", meaning legislation and regulation. This really rubs me the wrong way. Mattel can't outsource manufacturing to a company in China or anywhere else in the world and then expect us as taxpayers to be responsible for their quality control (or lack of quality control). Mattel is responsible for its vendors whether they are located in Beijing or Bayonne. Can American manufacturers get free quality control paid for by the U.S. taxpayers, too, or do they have to ship their manufacturing jobs overseas first?

Nina is right that we need "better gatekeepers" and that "efforts to minimize error should never be lax" but woefully wrong in placing that responsibility in the hands of the government. The Consumer Product Safety Commission was not setup to compensate for poor business practices and the burden to overcome them should not be placed on U.S. taxpayers. I also find the sudden interest in inspecting up to 100 percent of incoming cargo containers for hazardous plastic toys sadly amusing when the government has shown such little interest in inspecting the very same cargo containers for nuclear weapons.

Paul Entin
Bloomsbury, NJ

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