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 user 2007-08-08 at 11:35:00 am Views: 37
  • #18551

    As health concerns mount, shoppers are asking: What isn’t made in China?
    Chances are, most of your home’s furnishings, electronics, clothing and food are all thanks to China.
    what I discovered when I attempted to forgo purchasing anything that
    was assembled or manufactured in China – even if it included just an
    ingredient from China.Concerns about buying products made in China have
    mushroomed lately, with tales of contaminated dog food, toothpaste and
    shrimp spooking some shoppers. Mattel yanked 1.5 million
    China-manufactured toys last week after some of the toys, including
    Sesame Street characters, were found to contain lead. And some Chinese
    seafood, which typically accounts for 80 percent of seafood imports in
    the United States, was recently barred from importation after
    farm-raised eel, carp, shrimp and catfish were found to be contaminated
    by antimicrobial agents.
    To be fair, American products are not
    immune to contamination. In July, the Food and Drug Administration
    warned that some bags of Robert’s American Gourmet brand Veggie Booty
    contained a strain of salmonella, and Castleberry’s Food Co. shut down
    a Georgia production facility after several cans of its chili sauce
    were contaminated with botulism-causing bacteria.But China’s products
    are still swiping the spotlight, thanks to negative public perception,
    patriotism and concerns over unfair labor practices. Of the more than
    330 products that have been recalled this year, 60 percent of them were
    manufactured in China, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety
    Commission.China has received a lot of scrutiny and criticism for its
    massive influx of exports to the United States, said Mark Vitner, a
    senior economist with Wachovia.”The reason why it’s so disconcerting to
    a lot of folks is the sheer magnitude of products and the growing
    reliance on China for raw goods and key components,” he said. “There is
    also a great deal of state control of their economy, and some regard
    China somewhat suspiciously. There are a lot of concerns that have some
    validity to them.”
    But avoiding China-manufactured goods can be a
    daunting task, as the sheer ubiquity of China-manufactured goods is
    staggering: China exports make up 40 percent of all consumer goods
    imported to the United States, according to the U.S. Consumer Product
    Safety Commission. That magnitude of imports may leave domestic
    manufacturers and farmers feeling the squeeze, Vitner said.”There are
    always going to be winners and losers from free trade,” he said. “But
    we have a great deal more purchasing power because of international
    trade when we spend less of our money on clothing and televisions, we
    have more to spend on travel and leisure.”A glimpse in a kitchen
    cabinet alone usually yields several items from China – and some
    products may surprise you. For example, 50 percent of U.S. apple juice
    is from China.The allure of Chinese labor? It’s simply more
    cost-effective: On average, wages are lower, translating to lower
    prices overall, according to Vitner.The same notion holds true for Dale
    Christenson, founder of the Surf Source, an Atlantic Beach company that
    sells surfboard materials to manufacturers and surf shops. Several
    molded items, such as surfboard fins, are manufactured in China.”I’ve
    found it to be pretty lucrative to source things abroad,” he said. “But
    there are some caution flags that go up when doing so, mostly matching
    the quality that you require. That’s one of the biggest hurdles, since
    there’s a language barrier and there can be a difference in business
    ethics.”Christenson says the outsourcing means a hefty savings over
    domestic manufacturers (more than 50 percent), and that looking to
    China is essential to keep prices competitive.”It helps us maintain our
    prices without having to increase them,” he said. “By counteracting
    inflation, we can maintain our pricing structure.”

    What are the alternatives
    such an influx of affordable manufacturing, how difficult would it be
    to swap out China-made products and switch entirely to items made
    elsewhere? Turns out, avoiding China-manufactured products – and
    sticking to it – isn’t easy, or cheap. We did it for a week and broke
    it down to show how wide-sweeping China’s reach is:TOOLSIt was nearly
    impossible to find any hammers, nails, screwdrivers or much of anything
    else in the hardware sections that wasn’t made in China. Light bulbs,
    gloves and the like were also made in China. According to the
    Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, $2 billion
    worth of tools (a figure that includes cutlery) were imported from
    China in 2006.

    CLOTHINGThis may be one of the easiest categories
    in which to avoid China-made items. At Wal-Mart, the available
    clothing’s tags were a veritable cornucopia of countries: Indonesia,
    Lesotho, Jordan, Bangladesh. But there was a wide swath of China-made
    garments: a $9.77 Henley sweater, $15.92 jeans, and men’s boxers dotted
    with metallic dragons. Meanwhile, those looking for shoes made
    elsewhere are in for a long hunt. From sneakers to high-heeled wedges
    and sandals, nearly every pair was made in China. The same goes for
    pairs at Target and Payless Shoe Source. Looking for American shoes?
    Prepare to spend a lot more. Mukluks, a brand of leather boots made in
    Minnesota, go for $250, for example.

    TECHNOLOGYCustomers would
    be hard pressed to find technology not made in China. At one local
    Wal-Mart location, every stereo, remote control, air filter and
    calculator came from China. One ink jet’s label said it was
    “re-manufactured” in China. In fact, of all of China’s U.S. exports,
    technology and electronics were the biggest piece of the pie, totaling
    22.6 percent ($287 billion’s worth) of all of U.S. imports from China,
    according to research from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s
    International Trade Administration. Coffee makers, waffle irons and
    sandwich presses were all made in China at the discount retailers
    spot-checked by the Times-Union. For those willing to splurge, you can
    find espresso machines and the like from Australia and France – but
    they can cost much more. A Wal-Mart coffee maker from China can fetch
    anywhere from $20 to $109. But at Williams-Sonoma, coffee makers made
    in other countries can go for nearly $300.

    particular segment can be tricky. Many times, a build-it-yourself shelf
    will have American wood, but screws and the like made in China. Look
    carefully at the box – but be warned that some of the pieces (handles,
    etc) will be labeled as China-made on the plastic bags hidden inside
    the box. Other items, such as faux houseplants, include leaves and
    plastic stems that were manufactured in China, but were assembled in a
    U.S. factory.

    GROCERIESUnlike with computers, furniture and
    clothing, it can be much trickier to unearth the origin of food. While
    the government ruled in 2002 that every food item’s country of origin
    should be clearly labeled, the law’s implementation has been postponed
    due to a Congressional motion, said Steve Cohen, a spokesman for the
    United States Department of Agriculture.In that case, finding out where
    your food comes from will take some digging, but here are the basics:
    Roughly one-third of food imports are from China, and less than 1
    percent of that is inspected, according to the USDA.I had to do some
    squinty-eyes reading of labels to figure out where much of my grocery
    list came from. Produce at Publix was easy enough, as most of the
    fruits and vegetables have stickers pointing out their birthplaces.
    (Plums hail from Peru, avocados from Guatemala.)Seafood was similarly
    simple: Just look at the price signs posted, and the name of the
    country is toward the bottom. Winn-Dixie was one of the retailers who
    purchased seafood from Chinese manufacturers, but Robin Miller recently
    insisted in an e-mail that their supply was not affected.However, the
    origins of a box of Visine at Publix remained ambiguous. The box listed
    only the distributor’s location (Pfizer in New Jersey), but not the
    origin of the ingredients. I tried to call companies – such as General
    Mills – to ask, but most would not divulge where their products were
    made, citing the knowledge as “proprietary.”Online, I scoured for Web
    sites dedicated to American products. One, http://www.BuyAmerican.com, seemed
    promising, but the items were not so useful. Why would I ever need a
    $10 jar of mesquite bean jelly?

    TOYSSeventy percent of toys
    imported to the United States come from China – and every toy that has
    been recalled thus far this year has been manufactured there. A
    now-notorious line of toy trains that were coated in lead paint were
    recently yanked off shelves, for example. Even so, it doesn’t seem as
    though the number of China-made toys will decrease anytime soon. In
    2001, China toy imports were valued at $12 billion. In 2006, that
    number shot to $20 billion. Indeed, these toys are fairly ubiquitous,
    from Playmobil figurines to Barbie dolls. (Legos, however, are made in