Monday, July 29, 2013

A New Market For A New White Powder.


And this one has absolutely nothing to do with prohibition or controlled substances.

Quite the opposite, actually.

Because it turns out that people of means are smuggling baby formula into China.

From all kinds of places.

Like Europe, where herds of mules are paid a solid cut for swarming pharmacies that have been forced to invoke a two can per customer maximum to keep a little Similac on the shelves for the Mom's pushing prams who live down the street.

And the problem is so bad in Hong Kong that it is now a serious crime if you are caught hiding a third can in your luggage when you leave.


What's it all about?


The complete absence of regulation and consumer protection, of course, which made it possible to mass produce melamine-laced formula on a mammoth scale in the not too distant past.

The result - six dead babies and hundreds of thousands of very, very sick ones.


This is not just an emerging market problem.

Because, here in North America we are actually going the other way.

Recall, if you will, say, listeriosis.

Or, I dunno, how about...

Exploding trains?


Joe Nocera, writing on the OpEd page of the NYTimes put it this way on Saturday:

...In the United States, of course, it has become religion among conservatives to denounce regulation, saying it stifles business and hinders economic growth. But consider: At the turn of the last century, America was as riddled with scam artists as China is today. Snake oil salesmen — literally — abounded. Food safety was a huge issue. In 1906, however, Upton Sinclair published “The Jungle,” his exposé-novel about the meatpacking industry. That book, pointed out Stanley Lubman, a longtime expert in Chinese law, in a recent blog post in The Wall Street Journal, is what propelled Theodore Roosevelt to propose the Food and Drug Administration. Which, in turn, reformed meat-processing — among many other things — and gave consumers confidence in the food they ate and the products they bought...


I don't know about you, but my confidence is waning.

Props to Edward Wong of the Times for doing investigative digging on this story and the editors for giving him the time and the space to do it, which was A1 in the dead-tree edition on Friday...Interestingly, when I went looking for it this morning digitally there were toxic knock-offs lurking in the Google-Cache already...



scotty on denman said...

Safe commodity regulators help the big guys get big, and once they are, what do they do? ... decry, denigrate and denounce those regulators ---some way of showing their gratitude, huh?---then fire them out the back first opportunity they get, like a piece of toxic jet-trash. As self-regulators who actually proselytize acolytes to the altar of greed, they don't inspire the kind of consumer trust like the purged regulators cultivated. More like the kind of trust junkies and crackheads have to have in their pusher that their shit hasn't been stepped on too much or with something that's really bad for them (beware the Man who don't do his own wares). Compliant neo-right governments make unregulated commodities legal; it's all just business and it's all good, right? Yet consumers are willing, if they can, to pay a premium for products they can trust as being safe, as in "organic" foodstuffs, and even if that product is nominally illegal, like the culturally ubiquitous cannabis, where producers have risked prohibitive incarceration, fines and confiscations to provide a product that isn't contaminated by mite-killer or dependent on a long chain of violent criminal organization. Most pot growers are not "licensed", that is, not exempted from as yet repealed prohibition law, and risk legal sanction by producing small amounts of ganja for themselves and to share with their friends in order to have pot they know is literally and figuratively clean. So far, the most successful breach of our dumbest, most costly prohibition yet has been by way of medical marijuana, presumably because withholding relief of suffering is considered wrong across the political spectrum. Yet the nascent system of implicit trust in the medically necessary purity of the ganja still depends on personal, or nearly so, bonds of trust between supplier and patient not much different than that amongst technically illegal growers and consumers who sidestep potentially contaminated and/or criminally tainted dope. The connection between international criminal organizations and other suppliers of mass consumer products is their explicitly self-interested bottom line and self-licensed willingness to compromise product safety to that end. Too big, too impersonal and too greedy to guarantee product safety, the big guys need to be regulated absolutely. It was after all how they got so big in the first place; it even legitimizes the nominally illegitimate.

Anonymous said...

"Friso Gold"???

La Leche League where are you?

cfvua said...

As far as safe beef. Gather up a couple of families and attend a local 4-h sale. Buy an animal from a young person who is learning proper animal husbandry and bypass all the conglomerates that strive to raise food prices and question inspection or regulation of any kind, except that which effects small competitors. Best meat you will ever have and the money goes right to the producer. As it should.

RossK said...


I get that the bottom line matters...I just think it's the shorter and shorter and shorter time frames in which the bottom lines are drawn that is the problem



Ya. Good point...But apparently the market penetration for this stuff is massive in China (according to the Wong article in the NYT)



Great point, and a worthy way to do things in many realms.



Anonymous said...

RossK Sorry, meant to sign @ 1:58

Sadly Hooked

ps Any thoughts on why Christy's "Digital Influencers" are still quite active on comment boards?