There is an article in the Christian Science Monitor about the history
of tainted consumer goods. The author, Jane Whitaker, points
out that the USA has a history of problems ever bit as bad as what we
are seeing now from China, and makes the point that we should not be so
quick to judge. That is a fair point, but there is another
equally fair point to be made.
from the August 3, 2007 edition
Northampton, Mass. – If future historians ask which developing economy
was the bigger counterfeiter of consumer products – China or
the United States – it won’t be easy to decide. Product
adulteration is neither a foreign monopoly nor a new issue.
Current scandals might lead people to believe that food and product
safety regulations were the natural evolution of business and good
government. But it took consumer outrage to bring needed changes in
America in the early 20th century.
A century ago, US consumers feared domestic products. They distrusted
everything from candy to meat to medicine. Newspapers broke stories
daily revealing that even reputable department stores sold flatware
with less silver content than advertised and walnut furniture made of
gum wood. Buyers had to be wary or they would be cheated or, worse,
Product adulteration was already a venerable tradition in America by
She goes on to provide a number of despicable examples.
Then she makes the point that modern science keeps coming up
with new ways to make tainted products…
development breeds sophisticated trickery via new preservatives, dyes,
and fillers. The conditions that promote adulteration are clear: a
rapidly expanding economy and lax government controls, combined with
bargain-hungry consumers driving a market for cheap goods. It can
The additional point is this: yes, it can happen anywhere, moreover, it
will happen anywhere unless adequately funded,
appropriately strict, and rigorously enforced government regulation is