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With the recent events surrounding imported products from China, such as cough syrup, stationery, childrens’ toys tainted with lead or coma-inducing drugs, mislabeled fish, fish treated with malachite and other cancer-causing drugs, tainted beef, bad radial tires, leukemia drugs, toxic pet food, breakaway hammocks, electrocuting palm tree decor, Craftsman electric saws with flying blades, and deadly toothpaste, it’s no wonder that people are a little leery of Chinese imports. Over lunch, a coworker and I were discussing why the Made in the USA folks aren’t capitalizing on this chain of events to promote US-made goods, and the reason may be…

… well, nothing’s made here any more, not in significant quantities and not with sourced materials. Even the Made in the USA trade group and NAFTA have rather relaxed guidelines about what Made in the USA must mean:

“Made in the USA” products need a content consisting of 51% or more of domestically produced or manufactured parts, labor and or value-added content or any combination thereof.

Thus, even if a toy was manufactured in the USA, if the leaded paint used on the toy was of Chinese origin, the product would still qualify for a Made in the USA label.

The unfortunate reality is that in the quest for the lowest possible prices at all costs, we’ve effectively outsourced virtually every part of the supply chain, and to countries (not just China) who have varying standards of quality and safety, not to mention labor laws. Unfortunately, buying American is harder than ever.

Don’t even think about American icon Hershey Chocolate for this holiday season. From Forbes.com:

In February, Hershey announced a major restructuring designed to cut costs and excess production capacity in the United States and Canada, while expanding in Mexico, China and India, where labor is cheaper and Hershey hopes to sell more candy.

Since then, Hershey has announced it will close six U.S. and Canadian plants and cut more than 3,000 workers in the two countries, including up to 900 at its hometown plants. It has plans to shift more production to contractors and a new plant it is building in Monterrey, Mexico.

On Thursday, it said production is underway in China through a joint venture with South Korea’s Lotte Confectionery Co. and its joint venture in India with Godrej Industries Ltd. is up and running.

Perhaps we’ll see a resurgence this holiday season of small craftsman goods – things made not only in the USA, but made by your own hands. It’s the only way to be sure of a product’s origins. Just make sure you make the components, too.

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