Why Global Trade and Out-Sourcing Make International Standards Organization (ISO) Certification A Joke


Brand China is so in the toilet over leaded toys made for export that the Chinese Government is starting to take action against pirates in the toy supply chain. The other interesting aspect of his story is that it points to the lack of US coverage, so far, of evidence that voluntary standards don't help when China is the supplier.

Owing to the fact that poor or no records are available regarding how toxic toys were made or to whom they were sold, ISO certification, the international Gold Standard of quality, is apparently of no benefit to Western consumers seeking assurance that manufacturers have Chinese supply chains under control enough to guard against lead exposures. Voluntary certification, in this case, appears to be the Lead Standard.

China has banned more than 750 toy makers from exporting in the last two months as Beijing bends to western pressure to stem a flood of dangerous goods, according to a European Commission report.

A further 690 companies in the southern province of Guangzhou alone were ordered to renovate factories and improve product quality within a fixed period after Beijing investigated more than 3,000 manufacturers in September and October.

In spite of the quick response from Beijing, the report, published on Thursday, says the safety system needs a swift overhaul. In a quarter of cases the makers of dangerous toys cannot be traced because of poor record-keeping.

"One of the main problems is incomplete or complete lack of information about the manufacturer, which prevents them [the Chinese] from following up effectively," says the report.

"Traceability is a key issue for the industry and China," said a Commission official. "As with food, we have to be able to find out where these goods originate to tackle the problem at source."

If anyone has solid evidence indicating that ISO certification helps mitigate against toxic exposures from Chinese exports, we'd be glad to hear of it. Other wise the default presumption ought to be that its' worthless. And how much has been spent in getting ISO 14K certification over the last decade?

Ready for some black humor? The article cites a government official claiming this reason why regulatory reform is not needed in China.

"There is no immediate need for a sweeping change in the regulatory system or imports," the report states, which also reveals that buyers have returned only a fraction of potentially lethal devices.

Of the 500,000 magnetic toys sold in one member state, only about 10,000 were retrieved, the report says. Of the 13,000 toys containing lead sold in another member state, only 160 were returned.

Like, it's a good idea to ship tiny lead filled toys all the way back to China in order to register the need for reform.

And now for some diversity of cultural perspective.

Most Chinese consumers say they trust domestic brands more than foreign ones, according to a McKinsey survey that amounts to a stark warning for multinational companies about nationalist sentiment in China's booming market.

I'm sure the Roman's could find the origins of some nationalist sentiment from makers and sellers of lead goblets.

Via::Financial Times, "China cracks down on toy exporters" and Financial Times, "Chinese consumers prefer own products" Image credit::Museum of London, Roman Lead Ingots

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