Global Health Ideas

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Blog Housekeeping: Welcome to the “Jungle”

I am on the road and will be headed to Seoul and then Beijing for the next two weeks, so there will be limited posting if any, but I will try to get something up. Jaspal is also traveling through Mongolia (and then to meet me in Beijing where he will be presenting at the HCI conference, session info here) and Ben is presenting his research on Output Based Aid for improving STD access in Copenhagen and will not return to his Uganda home base for a while as well. We hope to resume regular posting when we all return to our respective homes.

jungle_cover.jpgWith the recent news about China (431 products recalled since 2005), I am very curious to see things first hand. Let me say upfront, as the NY Times just covered this, China is not the “sole source of dubious food products”(article). However, with global manufacturing comes potential global health problems. In case you have not been following, some of the reports on China goods, foods, and environmental protection have been scathing and have noted these issues are widespread. I have heard one expert say that “China food and product safety is where the US was 100 years ago” (almost exactly when The Jungle was released). Some of the items recalled and in questions include:

– toothpaste
– children’s toys
– defective car tires (at least 2 deaths)
– medicine (at least 51 supposed deaths)
– pet food (hundreds of deaths reported)

The list goes on. BBC has some good coverage with other recent articles. Two articles are worth reading to get a quick summary here and here. While these may not be fair critiques, reports out of China indicate the crisis is not being overblown and in fact may be under reported (a very scary situation if true). Of course the first thing I thought of after following the news was Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” which was one catalyst in 1906 that lead to the creation of the US FDA. From wikipedia:

“Sinclair’s account of workers falling into meat processing tanks and being ground, along with animal parts, into “Durham’s Pure Leaf Lard”, gripped public attention. The morbidity of the working conditions as well as the exploitation of children and women alike that Sinclair exposed, showed the corruption taking place inside the meat packing factories. Foreign sales of American meat fell by one-half. In order to calm public outrage and demonstrate the cleanliness of their meat, the major meat packers lobbied the Federal government to pass legislation paying for additional inspection and certification of meat packaged in the United States. Their efforts, coupled with the public outcry, led to the passage of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, which established the Food and Drug Administration.”

We will see if this recent explosion of bad news for China will serve as a similar catalyst. I am very much looking forward to the trip and my first visit to China. For other opinions on this matter see the following sources:

Freakonomics on China, link
Product Global (views from someone who has visit 75+ Chinese factories), link
Economist Brad DeLong on executed “FDA” head, link
China Law Blog, link

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Written by Aman

July 16, 2007 at 7:57 pm

Posted in Global Health

2 Responses

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  1. global warming is becoming such a obvious problem that someone somewhere other than Al Gore needs to step up to help drive the bus!

    global warming

    August 19, 2007 at 7:15 am

  2. China is like the US 100 years ago. When people ask me what China is like, I tell them to watch Deadwood. I am serious.

    China Law Blog

    July 17, 2007 at 2:36 am


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