Faced with the embarrassing issue of exported toothpastes containing poisonous chemicals, China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) has made many conflicting statements in the last few days.
On July 10, AQSIQ repeatedly emphasized that Chinese toothpastes containing Diglycol are harmless and even accused the international community of slandering Chinese products in an attempt to cause trade wars.
The very next day, AQSIQ issued a “Notice to Ban Diglycol in the Manufacture of Toothpastes.” But five days later, Li Changjiang, Director of AQSIQ, again characterized foreign media's reports on the poisonous toothpastes as unfair and untrue, even going as far to claim that the quality of Chinese food exports is higher than American food.
Why is AQSIQ making these contradictory statements? And more importantly for the safety of the international community, can communist China control the poison in its export products?
From Diglycol to More Deadly Poisons
In the last two months, in Panama, then Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, United States, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and Europe, have been hit with toxic Chinese products. All these countries have discovered the toothpastes imported from China contain Diglycol (Diethylene glycol). This is an industrial poison used in antifreeze, but only costs half as much as the approved medical-quality Propylene Glycol usually used in toothpastes.
Since the news broke, the quality of Chinese export products has been under intense scrutiny. Many more poisoned products made in China are being exposed and taken off the market after health problems and even deaths have occurred.
Loss of US$ 10 Million and a Crisis of Credibility for China's Exports
According to a Shanghai Media National Business Daily report, Xiang Jianqiang, the Secretary of China Oral Care Products Industry Association said “because of the poison toothpastes exports, related Chinese industries could lose up to US$ 10 million worth of exports in 2007.
After that report, China's Ministry of Health made public an “Evaluation Report” written by “Ministry experts.” The report claimed, “There is no harm to people's health even after continuous and long-term use of toothpastes containing less than 15.6 percent Diglycol.” However, the report does not provide the names of the “experts,” or any analysis of how they evaluated the long-term toxic effects. As the result of this suspicious report, the same toothpastes which have been banned in foreign countries are still on the shelf of the supermarkets in China.
Welcome to the Real World—Safety Before Profit
Starting from June 1, the new European Chemicals regulations (REACH) took effect. The new Regulation aims to improve the protection of human health and the environment while maintaining competitiveness. This will require all EU enterprises which manufacture or import to prove the chemical component in its products are harmless to humans, with all the lab and registration costs to be borne by the importers.
REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals, and according to experts, not only would it greatly reduce pollution, but the expected savings on medical expenses alone will reach 97 billion Euro in the next 30 years.
In retaliation to these new safety standards communist China's mouthpiece, Xinhua News Agency accuses the new regulation as a trade barrier for Chinese products and it may as well be considered an anti-dumping policy for export products from China.
All trade between EU and China will be affected by this regulation; products such as household electrical appliances, textile, clothing, shoes, toys, and toothpastes; and industries such as lighting, electronics, car manufacturing will all be covered by the new safety regulations.
According to a BBC report, the new regulation will affect 90 percent of the trade between China and EU, and will cause a 4 percent decrease in China's chemical manufacturing products. According to conservative estimates, Chinese enterprises will have to spend an extra US$500 million to $1 billion every year to bring all exports up to the safe and acceptable standard. Some Chinese officials have publicly described the new regulation as the “largest EU trade barrier” since China joined WTO.
Time for China to Catch up with International Community Standards
Dr. Xie Weiguo from Institute of Science and Technology at The University of Manchester commented on the communist regimes' reaction. “There are international standards for all industries, and there can't be a special standard for Chinese products. Currently, the food standards in mainland China are much more unsafe than the regulated accepted international standards.”
Dr. Xie continued, “This does not mean that the international standard is good enough, because the damage caused by some toxic substances is potential and chronic. It may not kill the person immediately, but it will cause harm to the human body in the long term. And normally people are not aware of this, and/or the manufacturers do not want to admit it, as is the case in China.”
Dr. Xie added, “Many of my friends are in the food and drugs manufacturing industry in China. Sometimes they feel helpless, because although they make their products completely according to the set international standards, it is still impossible for their product to meet the standard. The major reason for this is the quality of the raw materials and water in China is below an acceptable state for human consumption. Once the raw material contains these toxic poisons, they cannot be removed.
The water used in production, for example, is polluted. Due to the accelerating water pollution in recent years, the Chinese communist officials have lowered the standard of what was deemed “clean water.” So the water regarded as polluted before now becomes “clean water”, which is then sold to enterprises for production. So, it's hard for manufacturers to control the quality of their products, especially these toxic substances in the raw materials.”
In July 2007, AQSIQ did a nationwide quality inspection on products such as food, fertilizers and agriculture machines, with the result showing 19.1 percent of products did not meet the standard, of which the most serious problems showed up in foods, especially canned foods, dried fruits, and juice. The toxic substances and bacteria in many food products exceeded the accepted limit even in China.
In June 2007, AQSIQ announced 150,000 food production factories were forced to close in 2006. Health sources reveal that more than 200,000 people in China die of food poisoning every year. The acceptable rate of everyday living products such as oil, salt, sauce, vinegar, rice, and noodles is now lower than 40 per cent. It is especially hard to guarantee the quality of low price food products.
Today's Communist Ideology—Getting Rich is the Opiate of the Masses
China's first Director of State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), Zheng Xiaoyu, was executed on July 10 for bribery and dereliction of duty. The next day, in the press conference to launch the newly revised regulation “Procedures of Drug Registration,” the deputy director, Wu Zhen, specifically clarified that it was a rumour that “Zheng Xiaoyu approved 10,000 new drugs every year.” He said, “In 2005, the SFDA approved 1,113 new drugs, 1,198 revised doses, and over 8,000 generic drugs. That total is 11,086.”
However, what the deputy did not make clear was that the 1,113 new drugs approved by Zheng “because of bribery” was almost the total number that the US Food and Drug Administration had approved in the last 10 years. In the Wall Street Journal report, “Made in China,” the author quoted a common understanding which explains the current problems in China, “Now that many Chinese have lost faith in communist ideology, getting rich has, in a sense, become the national religion.”
In China this can be now proved by a common answer given by the masses when one is questioned for doing immoral things-the answer is, “How much a kilo for morality?”
Maybe when Chinese people stop asking, “How much a kilo for morality?” then maybe the food safety standards will become the barometer to gauge professional ethics.