Re selling adulterated/poison food products - Why do the Chinese keep doing this?

Is it a difference in cultural mores or what? After this latest incident where they are dumping melamine in milk power to boost up how it tests for protein, I’m thinking what is the problem with these people? It takes a good chunk of managerial and production staff to be in the know to pull this stuff off, and they’re feeding it to babies.

This problem is rife in China. This isn’t’ the 1920’s where some sleazy food manufacturer might argue they were somehow ignorant about the impact of adulteration. This isn’t some one off by an evil factory overlord. Conspiring groups of managers and production staff are doing this across China. These people are knowingly putting adulterants into baby milk and other foods to make a little extra money.

Even the Chinese grocers won’t return this shit, they keep selling it to their customers! Is this some cultural relativism thing where the golden rule is somehow different in China? Why do the lives and well being of their customers seem so valueless to these food producers.

Ignoring the specifics of a particular incident, it appears that this whole issue (Chinese goods are dangerous/contaminated/shoddy) may be a shark-attacks issue: i.e. generated solely by the media.

A study I saw late last year (I’ll need to see if I can dig it up) showed that the percentage of contaminated or recalled goods sold in the US that were from China was statistically identical to the percentage of goods period that were from China, but that that stories were vastly more reported when the manufacturer was Chinese.

Which is not to say that we shouldn’t be concerned about the quality of our products. Gerber and other baby food companies in the US are frequently attacked for quality/safety issues (some real, some fabricated) too. Does that mean that US people don’t care about babies or the “golden rule?”

Realistically, people and companies like making money, and they do all sorts of things along the entire ethical spectrum to do it. This isn’t new, nor particularly culturally specific – it’s one reason why we usually want government regulation on product safety, and can’t just let “pure” capitalism run the system.

It’s called CAPITALISM. Unrestrained capitalism, for sure. Go read about the US situation before the FDA. And may be again if McCain wins the election since Republicans don’t believe in regulation and even when they can’t get rid of it completely they make it toothless. Here is Canada, a government that seems about to be reelected has ended gov’t meat inspection which has resulted in hundreds of cases of listeriosis, including a couple dozen deaths. And an old company conceivably going bankrupt. Obviously, this was nobody’s intention, but they thought they could save a few bucks without ill effect.

My own personal opinion is that the best compromise is private enterprise accompanied by gov’t regulation to the extent needed. Better to have some regulatory inefficiency than to see people and companies die in the name of efficiency.

I can’t recall any instances in the past few years where American-made products caused major outbreaks of illness and deaths due to chemical adulteration and/or severe shortfalls in quality control. The Chinese have given us and other countries deliberately contaminated pet food and toothpaste, plus contaminated heparin that caused a number of U.S. deaths (last I heard, experts were still wrangling over just what the heparin problem was, but there was a chemical in the heparin that shouldn’t have been there).

Relax and enjoy globalization.

There was the whole e coli contaminated spinach thing?

Yes, but that wasn’t done intentionally. In the case of the Chinese food items, somebody said, “Hey, let’s put this stuff in there that will test out as if it were good for you, but it’s really poison, and it’s lots cheaper than actual food. We could make a ton of money!” Nobody said, “Hey, let’s put some salmonella in the spinach.”

Exactly the same thing happened in Europe during their industrial revolution. I guess if it’s possible, someone will try to make a fast buck doing it.

Pre-FDA, it happened here a lot. I remember hearing about lead put into candies so that they had brighter colors (not sure if there’s a cite- it was from my grandfather’s stories, though he wasn’t around then, adults he knew talked about it). A lot of the meds being sold at that time weren’t just useless, they often contained deadly ingredients. So, yeah, it happened here.

Sometimes, though, with the Chinese, and their records on forced abortion and the brutality of their one child policy, I wonder if they are trying to further decimate their population…

Speaking of hysteria:

Where “hundreds of cases” = 38 cases (google news isn’t giving articles on this more recent than the 3rd) and “a couple dozen” = 16, i.e., less than two dozen.

There are still a lot of medications that are both useless and potentially contain deadly ingredients. Why? Because people want useless medicines that potentially contain deadly ingredients. See, for example, homeopathic medicine.

My impression from news reports is that those doing the adulterating don’t necessarily realize that the substances they’re adding could hurt people. I was struck by the chemical trader in this article from last year, who ‘tested’ a bit of the cheaper substitute by swallowing a bit of it. When nothing happened to him, he shipped it out with forged certificates, figuring that he could make a bit of extra money. The stuff was used to make various medical products that killed several dozen people.

Can we watch our terminology here? It’s not “the Chinese” as some sort of amorphous mass that are doing this. It is some Chinese manufacturers.

Many people in China feel like the West irrationally hates them, and this leads to a lot of cultural misunderstandings and bad feelings. A lot of this could be avoided if we were a little more careful to not to talk about “the Chinese” as if it was some big lurking mass instead of a country of individuals.

I mean, Mexico has some problems with lead contaminated candies, but we don’t talk about how “the Mexicans” don’t value life, etc. We place the blame on the organizations and individuals who perpetuate these acts.

To be fair even sven we don’t blame “the Mexicans” for lead contaminated candies because we’re too busy blaming “the Mexicans” for taking our jobs.

When I see a repeated pattern of Chinese companies exhibiting a conspicuous lack of ethics, I’m going to come to the conclusion that there is something seriously wrong with Chinese business practices and culture, at least from a Western perspective.

My understanding was that the melamine added to pet food and milk supplement was not, until the outbreaks, considered a dangerous chemical. A cheap trick to earn more money when you’re paid by protein content, but not an overt act of subterfuge.

It seems the real problem is lack of adequate testing. Though, what is adequate? When something’s only got a 1 in 100 million chance of reacting poorly, should we test it on 100 million people before agreeing that it is safe?

But maybe I’m completely mistaken?

Perhaps it would be better to only talk about the children’s toys painted with lead-based paint, since that is a well known risk and, therefore, actively reckless. But, then that would reduce our list of potential righteous outrages.

Really? I’m coming to the conclusion that there’s something seriously wrong with Chinese law enforcement and quality regulation, since companies there are still doing and getting away with stuff that companies in the west used to do (and in some few cases no doubt would still love to do), but gave up on because of the huge effort put into busting their asses.

A few years ago we had some lovely people who knowingly and deliberately sold 1000 tons of rotten chicken - and since this sort of thing happens regularly in the UK I’ll bet you a biscuit it happens in the US too.

yummy. And this stuff ended up in supermarket chains. Amazing what happens when people cut costs a little too hard isn’t it?

we’re always telling “the Chinese” to learn from the West, maybe they learned that selling people shitty food is profitable?

**Jackmanii’s ** question specifically included lax quality control and didn’t specify intent.

Can we watch our terminology here? It’s not “the West” as some sort of amorphous mass that are doing this. It is some individuals in some Western countries.

There have been some prominent Chinese intellectuals who’ve argued that Chinese culture does have inherent problems that lead directly to this kind of heartlessness and petty self-interest. In particular see The Ugly Chinaman and the Crisis of Chinese Culture

Don’t be put off by the title: if you want the inside view of how Chinese criticize their own culture, this may be a good place to start.

I didn’t invite comparisons with “lax quality control”. What I said was “I can’t recall any instances in the past few years where American-made products caused major outbreaks of illness and deaths due to chemical adulteration and/or severe shortfalls in quality control.”

What constitutes “severe shortfalls in quality control” is debatable, but there’s one hell of a difference between periodic outbreaks of food poisoning (in the case of E. coli-contaminated produce, there’s evidence of improvement in the U.S.) and the repeated, deliberate adulteration of foodstuffs with a toxic substance (melamine) as has occurred recently in China. If the same sequence of events had occurred in the U.S., there’d probably be indictments by now. And I think we’re long past the time when simple ignorance explains the repeated melamine adulteration cases. There’s surely been enough publicity in the last few years that large Chinese companies and the Chinese government are fully aware of the problem (I doubt that even individual small farmers in the backwater can be regarded as mere innocents, if they ever were) and know the importance of cracking down on offenders.

Debate ethnic sensitivity all you like, but people in any country that imports food items from China are going to be at risk until the powers that be (including American companies that deal with China and politicians that have a rah-rah attitude toward globalism) decide it’s a serious enough issue to get China to pay attention.

If it makes you feel any better, Japanese companies do similar things. Normally it’s just repackaging mundane foods as “premium quality” foods and charging twice as much, but the current big scandal has been Mikasa foods purchasing large amounts of industrial-use rice (ignorance fought: I hadn’t even know there was such a thing), then repackaging it as edible rice and selling it to food manufacturers at triple the price. Nothing seems to have reached public consumption, but a lot of small businesses (sake brewers, for example) have been pushed into bankruptcy because they had to destroy several months’ worth of goods.