Did you catch the FDA warning about toxic toothpaste a couple weeks ago? I didn’t, thanks to an insanely busy (albeit fun) weekend. But when I fired up my computer this morning, my eye was caught by the New York Times’ interesting follow-up (“FDA Tracked Tainted Drugs, but Trail Went Cold in China”) on the story.
“Provenance” is a word I’m going to be using a lot more from here on out (I’ve also added it to my categories for this blog). The general inability we as consumers have to know the provenance of so many of the things we buy represents a huge problem.
Provenance blindness is the underlying theme of my recent posts on apparel and bedding, but it takes on a whole new urgency when it comes to something like poisonous toothpaste—or tainted food or pet food, also from China. It’s one thing to care about the working conditions of the people who labor in those nameless factories over there; it’s another to realize that our own safety is in danger when we use products of uncertain origin.
I found an interesting parallel in the toothpaste story with my recent bedding conundrum with Gaiam. In both cases, we have entities refusing to divulge their product sources because they’re worried about being undermined in the marketplace.
So, does global capitalism preclude transparency? Whose job is it to police these supply chains? And if the FDA wasn’t able to find out the origin of toxic products being sold in the U.S., how are we consumers to do so?