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Consumers against toxic products (or just a fear bubble?)

December 30th, 2009 by Devangshu Dutta

There’s been a lively debate on Retailwire.com initiated by Tom Ryan (Managing Editor), and prompted by an article in the Washington Post about how consumers are literally taking matters in their own hands and testing toys and domestic items for the presence of toxic substances.

Some of the commentators feel that this is going too far and could create waves of unnecessary panic, that consumers and consumer advocacy groups do not have the necessary expertise nor a balanced judgement, that it is a job for the government agencies. Others support the move and say that such moves are absolutely in order.

In my opinion, despite good intentions on the retailer’s part and the humongous bureaucracy in the supply chain, if product safety compliance is incomplete and if consumers feel insecure, then they will provide the wake-up call any which way they can.

We may decry the paranoia, but let’s also consider the increase and concentration of risk in recent years due to factors such as:

  1. Vague responsibility for unsafe products due to the nature of the current supply chain
  2. Extreme focus on factory costs leading to corners being cut in the supply base
  3. Long lead-times between the buying decision and actual delivery, with multiple hand-offs (and sometimes, meanwhile, people changing jobs and responsibility)
  4. Significantly larger consumption and disposal volumes than earlier generations
  5. “Strategic sourcing relationships” leading to concentration of sourcing volumes–if one product line has been produced with unsafe toxins by a vendor, the likelihood of others being handled the same way are higher as well. While we all hope that more business gets concentrated to a vendor with better practices, such is not always the case.

However the industry may feel about it, I think consumer advocates have the steering wheel on this one. Unless government outlaws ‘unapproved’ testing…but I wonder how palatable that would be, politically speaking.

Here’s the original article from the Washington Post.

And the discussion on Retailwire.com is here (needs a free sign-up).

Posted in Apparel, Consumer, Food & Grocery, Footwear, Lifestyle & Fashion, Outsourcing, Product Development and Design, Soft Goods, Supply Chain, Textiles, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

One Response

  1. Ashok Says:

    What else can you expect from a paranoid society!!!

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