Thursday, January 17, 2008

Look for the Union Label - Made in the USA update

My daughter has excema. When I put her hair up for dance class I noticed that she has been scratching at her face and neck. I told her that we would stop on the way home from class and buy some lotion for her. On our route we had two options: the Green Earth store that sells organics and homeopathics and Walgreens. I chose Walgreens because I thought a pharmacist might have a suggestion for us, and I decided that I would tell him regardless we needed only USA-made lotion.

Bad choice. The line looked like the wait for Hannah Montana tickets. We set off on our own to find something. Nivea? Love it. Out- made in Mexico. At least that was prominently labelled. Most products just say 'distributed by' which could mean anything.

What's worse is that thanks to our ever declining standards of regulation, in the health and beauty aisle, made in the USA is not necessarily a good thing. That's because just prior to the turn of the century the European Union created a list of banned substances for cosmetics and health items. The United States doesn't follow this list at all, going so far as to sell different formulations for products for sale in Europe as are sold in the United States. European countries can use the US as a dumping ground for inferior products it cannot sell at home. Other countries are following the lead of the Europeans and adopting tougher guidelines. We are being left behind.

The vast majority of chemical compounds used in the ointments, creams, shampoos and cosmetics we douse ourselves with daily have never been tested. Europeans however, have a different mindset than we do. In Europe if a substance is suspect through testing, yet not 100% certain to be toxic, it is banned. In the United States, it has to be clearly shown to be linked to some danger or another. We take a much greater after-the-fact approach. And ironically, some manufacturers claim that Americans are safe because we have such an active torts system. Which at the same time they spend oodles of bucks to undermine through lobbying efforts and tort reform.

So in my own buying decision I still went with the made in the USA claim. Organics are a very good choice and I should have gone to the other organic store. Live and learn.


Randal Graves said...

Just to throw a wrench into things, don't forget about all the Abramoff-esque shenanigans that lead to "made in the USA" being slapped on various items. We've tried to do this, and it really is pretty goddamn difficult. Hell, it was bad enough when we began to make a concerted effort to cut out foods with HFCS in them. It's amazing how many crackers have that crap. Fucking crackers, both meanings.

Jess Wundrun said...

Oh, randal, I could go on for days about high fructose corn syrup. We, too, tried to cut it out. Which led to me canning more stuff than I ever thought I would.

True, the whole thing with the Marianas islands is repulsive. What I wonder most is how did we get to this point?

I've actually been ridiculed on other centrist blogs for saying that I drive only domestic vehicles.

Anonymous said...

Homeopathic medicine may be a good choice, if you can get some good advice on how to use them. Elephant pharmacy where I live has people that will advise, and I believe Pharmaca does as well. Perhaps your Green Earth will as well.

dguzman said...

What Michael said.

It's so damned hard trying to buy USA products! But it's worth it, just to feel like I'm being truly patriotic and sympathetic to those people displaced by "globalization" (read: "you're being laid off, 'cause we're paying a guy in Timbuktu a penny to do your job! Thanks!").

FranIAm said...

Jess, as always I really admire you. What a commitment to make here and what an illuminating tale about how to make it work.

Who mocked you? I don't like that. I actually had quite the storm on my blog over agreeing/disagreeing.

Dr. Zaius said...

Skin condition, eh? I once had the Seven Year Itch.

I scratched real hard and managed to get rid of it in three and a half.

Anonymous said...

I'm really curious to see how things go for you. I'm rooting for you. I floated the idea of shopping, eating and doing everything locally, but it received a very lukewarm reception from the family.

Good for you for not being deterred. The best I can do is insist that we don't eat at chain restaurants. But then, now that we can't afford to eat out, that's not a problem.

Good luck, Jess!

Chris in Seattle said...

Don't know if I'm repeating anyone, but did you know that if only so much as the tag or label is made in the USA, they can be stuck on an item regardless of where the item itself was really made? True story.