It seemed a little fishy earlier this year when news first broke of tainted toothpaste from China. Was it totally coincidental that those disclosures came just as Congress was about to take up a bill to make it easier for Americans to buy drugs from Canada and Europe, and so avoid the ridiculous prices the drug companies charge here? The bill failed, amid a flurry of concern about the safety of health-care products from abroad (a concern that was notably absent during the sales jobs for Nafta and Gatt.) This was even though there have been no reports of tainted drugs from Canada to my knowledge, only lower prices.
Now there is a new round of disclosures, this time regarding children’s toys with lead paint and kindred health hazards. I have little doubt that China’s eager entrepreneurs have been less than fastidious. Why would we expect them to be any different than America’s were at a similar stage in its development. (Cf. Upton Sinclair’s description of the U.S. meatpacking industry in The Jungle.) But then I saw a story in the current Business Week(September 24, 2007) that suggested something more might be afoot.