US consumers shun China-made cosmetics

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Harris interactive, European union

Confidence in Chinese goods has reached crisis levels after a
series of high profile product safety scares, according to a recent
survey of US consumers.

As many as 55 percent of respondents said they were not confident in personal care products manufactured in developing countries like China and India. Harris Interactive conducted the survey at the end of June, shortly after the discovery of Chinese toothpaste on US soil containing the highly poisonous ingredient, diethylene glycol, a compound usually found in anti-freeze. The toothpaste, which was passed off as a Colgate product, is part of China's booming counterfeit market, a sector of the world economy that was worth $200bn in 2005 (OECD). Pundits expect legitimate exporters from countries such as China to be hit by counterfeiters and producers of dangerously low quality products as six out of 10 survey respondents said they check to see where a product was produced before buying. "These findings suggest that if product safety problems continue it is likely that the general public will increasingly consider country of origin when making purchasing decisions,"​ said Katherine Binns from Harris Interactive. Growing pressure from the international community has prompted promises of action from the Chinese Government. In May the Ministry of Health announced that it wanted to introduce regulations to ensure the accuracy of product labeling. The Harris Interactive survey reveals that consumers doubt whether the Chinese Government will introduce effective measures. Only 30 percent said they were confident that the Chinese authorities would follow through on their promises to improve product safety. With GDP in China continuing to grow at in excess of 10 percent, the trouble for regulatory authorities is trying to keep up with the pace of product development. Evidence from Europe suggests that the problem of dangerous fast moving consumer products from China is growing at a phenomenal rate making the challenge facing Chinese regulators both harder and more important. The EC's annual Rapex report on dangerous consumer products, published in April, showed that the number of low quality or dangerous products reported by EU states doubled last year and almost half of the goods were imported from China. The EU says member states are losing 20,000 jobs a year to counterfeiters but it has nonetheless decided to pursue dialogue in relation to fakes and low quality products, rather than join the US by taking the legal route. Following the tainted toothpaste scare in June, the FDA imposed a trade block on all imports of Chinese toothpaste to the US. The tougher American approach has the support of US consumers according to the Harris Interactive survey. Almost two-thirds of those who believe that it is possible to ensure the safety of imported products support the idea of bigger fines for offenders and banning unsafe products.

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