The indictment of two Chinese companies for allegedly selling tainted wheat gluten and mislabeling the product to avoid Chinese inspections has sad implications for American manufacturers – sad because it will give American products a boost at the cost of thousands of pets’ lives. The gluten ended up in more than 60 million cans of pet food according to USA Today, with more than 150 brands involved.
The news of the indictments will have a huge ripple effect. It will, for example, serve as reminder of the recent tainted toy scandal involving lead-based paint, which resulted in 10.5 million toys being taken off the shelves of retailers just prior to Christmas.
Fair-minded, rational people know that most Chinese companies that sell products or components into the U.S. market aren’t guilty of any crimes, and provide parts, chemicals or finished goods that meet the relevant specifications for quality and safety.
But, as Machiavelli has taught us, many people are neither fair minded nor rational. And as a result, this news presents both opportunities and threats.
The opportunity is for companies that manufacture exclusively in the U.S. It lies in the fact that “Made in U.S.A” means a lot more than it did six months ago. In a number of categories – plastic baby bottles, pacifiers, vinyl lunch boxes, toothpaste, lipstick, diapers and tires, to name a few – “Made in U.S.A.” stands for safety, while “Made in China” stands for danger. (These categories associated with “Chinese risk” were provided by workday Minnesota. a labor advocacy organization.) With consumers already nervous about Chinese products, American manufacturers have a chance to gain market share if they play the “Made in U.S.A.” card.
The threat is for companies where Chinese components are part of their supply chain. It’s not fair, but no matter how many inspection steps they have in place, some people will look at their product with suspicion just because of its Chinese content.In taking these realities into account, there’s a moral dilemma: Is it fair to exploit peoples’ fears to sell more product? I’ll take a stand. Proudly touting the “Made in U.S.A” label is okay. Negative China bashing steps crosses the line. What do you think?