US Sends Substandard Products Overseas

Here’s some depressing news: US companies increasingly export products that do not meet our safety standards, says the Washington Post.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says it’s powerless to stop the flow of dangerous products.

From the Washington Post:

Companies notified the agency 97 times last year that they planned to export goods that did not meet some aspect of U.S. safety standards. That is up from 57 times in 2002, according to the agency.

Among the types of goods exported were toys, lighters, fireworks, clothing, chemicals, carpets and pacifiers. They were shipped to Belgium, Ireland, New Zealand, Colombia, the Czech Republic and the Philippines, according to the CPSC. The agency did not identify the companies involved or reveal what standards the goods violate.

“Our agency, through our governing statutes, cannot claim much moral authority over the Chinese, or any other foreign country, when it comes to our own export policy,” Commissioner Thomas H. Moore of the CPSC said in a list of legislative proposals regarding the agency. “Our export policy is based on a desire to see U.S. manufacturers be able to compete in foreign countries in terms of price and marketability, not safety.”

A spokesman for the Irish embassy said that he’s sure the Irish National Consumer Agency would be “very concerned if unsafe products are being placed on the Irish or European market.”

Great! We’re repackaging substandard products that can’t be sold here and pawning them off on other countries. The CPSC thinks this is hypocritical behavior and it’s hard to argue otherwise.

“Given this background, it is somewhat hypocritical of us to berate any other country for not requiring their manufacturers to abide by the myriad U.S. mandatory and voluntary product-safety standards,” Moore said.

Products That Miss Safety Standards Sent Overseas by U.S. Companies [Washington Post]
(Photo:Morton Fox)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    Like “Live Free or Die Hard”? Did you see how well that did overseas?

  2. dbeahn says:

    Um….if the products meet the specs of the country they’re being shipped to, then who cares?

    We expect products shipped here to meet our laws and guidelines, if other countries have weaker laws and guidelines, then it’s the responsibility of those countries to change their laws and guidelines.

    There just isn’t enough actual information in this article to make it a legitimate post. No word on if these “unsafe” products were recalled, or rejected by the country they were sent to, or if they met the requirements of the country they were sent to.

  3. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Does it occur to anyone to ask why makers of unsafe products would be notifying the government that they are doing so? Doesn’t seem likely, does it? Maybe it’s because the products are not really unsafe.

    Actually, it does not even say “unsafe” products were exported. It says that products were exported that do not meet “some aspect of U.S. safety standards.” They may well meet the safety standards of the countries to which they are being exported, which are evidently different from or even contradictory to the U.S. standards. This does not mean the products were unsafe.

  4. Falconfire says:

    @speedwell: Exactly, our standards while very good in some important aspects, are idiotic in others (dealing from the standpoint of the US parenting our kids over what “could” be a dangerous toy, like lawn darts, instead of making parents do their freaking JOB while other countries let their parents do the jobs they are supposed to)

  5. ry81984 says:

    If we had to try and sell our products at a higher quality, there would be no way anyone could afford our products in other countries.

    If we have to pay an american to make a product at $10 an hour and other countries pay their workers $1 an hour, then we obviously have to cut quality to compete because we need less workers to create a product to even have a chance.

  6. MENDOZA!!!!! says:

    this may be true, but ours are made with 100% more federalized republican democracy; and therefore more betterer.
    Can’t you taste the democracy?

  7. Raanne says:

    I thought this was common knowledge… I remember an article on NPR about this – how when food was coming in to the US that didn’t meet our standards, the companies that bought it dont dispose of it, they just ship it to a different country.

    It is also a way for a company to make more money – if 10% of a harvest doesn’t meet US standards, just mix it in with whats being shipped out – chances are it will meet the other countries standards.

  8. spinachdip says:

    @thbarnes: Those damn dirty foreigners do have shit taste in American films. I mean, you don’t see star studded, red carpet premieres for The Station Agent in Tokyo or Paris.

  9. Falconfire says:

    so really what you have to figure out is, are we so heavily regulated as to be idiotic when it comes to some things, or are other countries so lax as to be dangerous to their consumers.

    Its not hard to say the later when you see countries like China, but there are a ton of countries in Europe that point more toward the former, who have populations that live much longer than ours.

  10. raybury says:

    Belgium and the Czech Republic are EU members, and there are plenty of EC safety standards. I doubt they’re getting toys with lead paint from us. I would hope we’re sending non-U.S.-approved DDT to Africa to save millions from malaria.

  11. 3drage says:

    I wish there was a way to vote to remove sensationalist articles like these from the blog. There are very few facts mentioned with obscure comments such as “The agency did not identify the companies involved or reveal what standards the goods violate.” So pretty much no substance, and all “The sky is falling!”

  12. Buran says:

    @3drage: Is it your blog? No. You could just keep scrolling past instead of posting whines about what other people post on THEIR site.

  13. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Hypothetical situation… what if we shipped products that MET our safety standards, but fell short of the other country’s safety standards?

    No doubt some moron would come posting on the thread to the effect that the products were perfectly safe, and they don’t see what the problem was, other than a bunch of pussy foreigners with their namby-pamby panties in a wad.

  14. revmatty says:

    Ah, so what I can see from the comments here is there is plenty of nuance and caveats when a U.S. company makes unsafe products, but no such latitude when a Chinese company does the same thing. Why do I feel like I’m reading Fox News?

  15. Techguy1138 says:

    Revmatty- You are pretty much replying to Speedwells comment.

    The products China has been shipping seem to meet internal Chinese standards but do not meet US standards.

    So no sympathy for you. When you ship a product to a country you have to meet THEIR product safety standards. You don’t get to make the rules to where you send your stuff.

  16. JohnMc says:

    If you consider that the importing country does not care to have such laws even domestic products would be dangerous. So its parity in the marketplace.

    What distresses me more is the fact that the MFR’s aren’t thinking. They spent the gobs of money to R&D a better product. Then they don’t use that as leverage to sell it as a premium in the export market. As a shareholder that would tend to piss me off.

  17. jons1 says:

    The article fails to mention that foreign safety standards are often incompatible with US standards. A US car would not meet Japanese safety standards… because the steering wheel is on the wrong side, among other things. Car seats, electric devices, radio transmitters, phones, televisions and even food labeling have mutually incompatible standards all over the world.

  18. MyCokesBiggerThanYours says:

    Why are we surprised? The other nations don’t have the same laws as us. Why would a manufacturer waste money for features and qualities that aren’t required? Sometimes I think people forget the only reason to be in business is to make money.

    In the US kids are not allowed to skin knees or lose at sports, or God forbid, fail for failing to complete requirements. Our nation is unrealistic when it comes to mortality and injury. Just remember: the best in our society didn’t achieve success by staying in the safety ropes.

  19. loueloui says:


    I hate to point out the obvious, but the fact that you can post that in a public forum and have no reasonable fear of being arrested or killed proves your point is nonsense. Or, to answer your question, Why yes, I can taste the democracy!

    Back to the subject, I hope they send all of this crap to China. Even if they don’t, products that fail to meet our safety guidelines don’t necessary mean they are dangerous or illegal to sell elsewhere.

    I once traveled to Hong Kong to inspect a shipment of chandeliers bound for the middle east. I rejected every single one of them, but they, the customers, apparently had no problem at all with these.