Another Sign American Wasn’t Ready for Globalization: The Safety Gap

Monday, November 3, 2008 9:42
Posted in category Uncategorized

A few years back a friend of mine was the speaker at a small gathering and he made a comment that at the time was a bit different than the mainstream

He said (and I am paraphrasing), that America created the current global environment without being ready for it.

It was a statement he was making in response to recent calls on China to stop manipulating its currency, that China was stealing jobs, and that China was just not playing fair in the market in a  whole host of other way(tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers, etc).

However, during the summer of 2007, this statement would carry a different meaning as Mattel’s Lead Paint Barbie, FTS’s tires, and IAMS dog food highlighted the fact that there was little infrastructure in place to effectively manage the inspection and testing of goods being imported.

Inspection rates in the single digits were being carried out by Homeland Security, the FDA was a fraction of that, and while the cases were fortunately few… it was only a matter of time before the system was tested again and a failure presented itself.

The Safety Gap, an article from Gardiner Harris at the New York Times, highlights how serious the gaps in the system are when it comes to food and pharmaceutical items.

As a person who avoids pills at all costs, what was disconcerting was that even after the issues of last year, it does not appear that much has changed.

The staff levels are still low, the staff they have are either unqualified to manage the current portfolio of items from China or they are apathetic to the situation, computer programs are not in sync, and even the basic forms have yet to be developed that would introduce the very basics hardware ofa system.

For me, the line that showed just how disorganized the agency was, was:

Customs seizes any steroids and narcotics they find, but they give other drugs to F.D.A. inspectors, who laboriously fill out handwritten forms and send letters to intended recipients. If the recipient swears that the drugs are for his or her own personal use, the F.D.A. often releases the detained package. It takes an hour or two to process each package, “an obstacle that makes their job functionally impossible,”according to a 2003 Congressional investigation

Who handwrites letters these days?  Why not have an intern do this?  Better yet, have the intern write a bit of Access code to create a template that would minimize the need for agents who should be focused on finding dodgy toothpaste to hand write the address on the envelope.

In sum, this is one of the most interesting articles I have seen on the agency side of inspections, and I would suggest everyone read this.

After reading this article, I have a few questions

1) Is outsourcing pharmaceutical ingredients, or complete products in whole, to a country clearly having a history of serious quality issues in the a good idea?

2) Are the numbers of deaths and illnesses an acceptable price, and how do these numbers compare to times before China?

3) If consumers knew where their pharmaceuticals were being made, would that make a difference?

4) When will the US government, and US industry leaders, accept the fact that they have a much larger role to play in the quality control of items imported from other countries?

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One Response to “Another Sign American Wasn’t Ready for Globalization: The Safety Gap”

  1. Stephan Larose says:

    November 3rd, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    Outsourcing something as important and complex as medicine to third world countries producing goods with prison labor, child labor, and low-wage, low-skill, long-hours workforces (that you find in China) is just stupid. The jobs producing medicines should stay in the U.S. for one, and of course, playing with the quality of compounds that could kill you if you get them wrong is obviously not smart.

    The global economic system is so incredibly backwards, it makes nearly zero sense! In any case, this global financial crisis is the logical outcome of the policies of the last 30 years, and was predicted a long time ago. As a result, the people with the most money, those with the power to lead to this outcome or not, chose to go forward. Thus, this crisis was premeditated to disenfranchise the citizenry of the free world and make us all the subjects of an all powerful elite, essentially, Chinese.

    Of course, the entire financial system is just a legal framework enforced by nothing but consent and there would be no damage incurred if the world changed to a more stable, morally grounded financial framework. Remove the powers of legal counterfeit from banks and let the people control the monetary system, that’s the only way to get these incessantly greedy, corrupt buffoons out of the way.