S KOREA - Quarantine officials in Seoul, South Korea have announced that they have discovered a box of imported U.S. beef with banned parts, just three days after Seoul revoked the permit of a U.S. beef processing plant for shipping banned beef.
Under an agreement reached in January 2006, South Korea agreed to allow imports of American boneless beef from cows under 30 months old.
Private U.S. meat packaging facilities, however, have shipped ribs and backbones, causing Seoul to temporarily halt import inspections several times in the past few months.
The Agriculture Ministry said in a statement that it has revoked the permit for a plant run by Cargill Inc. for shipping the 13.3 kilogram-box with banned beef ribs to Busan, a port in southeastern South Korea.
The U.S. company was also found to have shipped a box of ribs to Korea on May 29. So far, the permits for four out of five Cargill plants have been revoked.
China rejects contaminated and poor quality imports from the US
China has found harmful microscopic worms in wooden packaging, as well as poor quality vitamin pills and fish oil for children from the US.
In Shenzhen, pine wood worms known as nematodes were found in 13 sets of packaging from the US. The wooden packaging, used to hold imported products from the US, had been produced by six manufacturers with official US certificates.
According to the Chinese Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), this is not the first such case. Out of 70 batches sampled between the period of July 14 to August 23, 10 batches of wooden packaging were found to contain harmful living organisms.
AQSIQ disclosed that the proportion of substandard wooden packaging from the US - 15.38% of the sample - was much higher than that for the European Union, Republic of Korea, Japan or Canada.
China blamed US manufacturers and exporters for the problems with the wooden packaging, which had not been properly treated according to quarantine requirements. It added that the labels on some packaging were not clear - an indication that those labels could well possibly be fake – and instructed its officials to tighten the supervision of wooden packaging from the US.
Other products from US rejected The Zhejiang province also found substandard vitamin pills and children's fish oil that, according to the Zhejiang Industrial and Commercial Department, ‘failed to reach the nutritious levels promised on their labels.'
In addition, a shipment of frozen potato slices which failed to meet standards in carbonyl and acidity levels was found and destroyed, in accordance to China’s laws.
The Chinese government said that it has notified its US counterparts and asked it to investigate the incidents.
China’s image gets hit again with third Mattel recall
US - Brand China has suffered another blow as global toy giant issued its third recall of toys manufactured in China in a month due to excessive lead levels found in the paint decorating the toys.
Almost 800,000 Fisher-Price and parent company Mattel-brand toys have been recalled, including Barbie furniture and pet toy accessories, GeoTrax trains and toy bongo drums.
All affected toys had been sold within the last year.
This third recall has been issued in the midst of an internal investigation by Mattel of toys made in China. Millions of other toys have been recalled in the past month by Mattel in two sets of recalls.
Once again, the reason for this latest recall is the potentially toxic amounts of lead found in the paint used for the toys. Sucking, chewing or swallowing items with lead can result in lead poisoning and learning and behavior problems for children. In more serious cases, it can also lead to death.
US trade officials intend to hold a hearing on September 19 to discuss how to protect children from tainted toys.
Has Mattel acted fast enough? Many have started questioning whether Mattel had acted too slowly in reporting and taking action on the hazardous toys.
Just this year alone, Mattel has had to pay civil penalties of almost US$1 million to the Consumer Product-Safety Commission (CPSC) for failing to report incidents with the Fisher-Price Little People Animal Sounds Farm. In 2001, it had to pay US$1.1 million for its ‘slowness’ in reporting fire hazards with Power Wheels ride-on vehicles to the Commission.
However, Mattel insists that it has done no wrong. Although CPSC’s rules dictate that all product hazards have to be reported to it within 24 hours. Robert Eckert, CEO, Mattel, told local media that “there are vagaries in the law” and that such procedures require “the benefit of hindsight”.
Eckert explained that Mattel prefers to do its own investigations first. Even then, he said, the company does "pass along" reports of injuries and incidents to CPSC.
Julie Vallese, a spokeswoman for CPSC shot back, "The reporting obligation is extremely clear, and the same rules apply to any company, big or small."
The China-blame game According to Eckert, it was the Chinese subcontractors hired by Mattel’s suppliers who violated its prohibition on lead paint, banned in children's toys since 1978.
But he assured that the company has stepped up oversight of production and testing, saying, "We've now tested all the toys we're making in Asia and this system is in place and working."
China fights back The Chinese government has accused the West, in particular the US, of exaggerating the issue, and expressed concerns that the recent product scandals, which include tainted pet food and flammable clothes, could encourage protectionist policies against its exports.
According to the government, China exported 22 billion toys in 2006, about 60% of the global total in terms of volume. This makes China the world's largest toy manufacturer and exporter.
China started a four-month campaign last month to boost the image of Brand China by tackling hazardous products and sub-standard manufacturers.
The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine (GAQSIQ) announced new rules last week to tighten its national recall system, demanding that faulty products have to be voluntarily recalled by manufacturers, otherwise it will issue the recall itself and fine the producers up to three times the value of the products.
A nationwide investigation into licensed toy producers and exporters has also been started by the GAQSIQ in an effort to filter out "unqualified" ones who will have their export quality certificates revoked.
Lin Zhongjian, General Manager, Ball Star Toys Co. Ltd, was quoted by local media as saying, "With every kind of product, we cannot be 100%certain that it will pass the grade, even with stricter quality controls. We try our best to make it 100%, but even with luxury cars like Mercedes-Benz, they could not make it perfect and had some recalls.
“The problem from our perspective - the toy producers, is that both sides should be looking at where the origin of the problem is, and not one side wielding a stick and killing us by branding all products made in China as problematic."