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Opinion ... ...
    Consumers can't be left in the dark

2006-03-18 07:11

You've used a kind of toothpaste for years and are used to it. But you are told one day that there might be something unhealthy, even poisonous, in it. How would you feel?

You might have that disgusting feeling inside that stays with you for days until you seek solace in the hope that the products you used might not be contaminated or the news might be wrong.

This kind of thing happens all the time.

Green Peace alleged that an instant rice powder for babies produced by Heinz HJ Co contains GM rice, which might be unsafe for little ones.

An Internet portal boss and lawyer brought the National Committee for Oral Health to court, questioning its qualification and authority to certify products like toothpaste and gum for oral health.

A wood floorboard produced by Order was advertised as being a product from Germany, and the brochure issued by the producer says its headquarters is located in Germany. But investigation has proved that is untrue.

Facing examples like these, what has been left for us to question is our own rights as consumers.

We have the right to know about the truth of what we buy, according to the law on consumers right and interest. But how can we know the truth about the commodities we purchase?

Can we expect a father to take a bag of rice powder to a specialized testing centre to make sure it doesn't contain any harmful ingredient before he buys it?

Can we require a consumer to travel to Germany to confirm the floorboard is indeed a product of that European country?

A customer would be deemed as over-fastidious if he or she questioned the authenticity of the National Committee for Oral Health when buying toothpaste or a pack of gum.

The Order brand floorboard was certified by the Chinese Association of Consumers as a high quality product in 2001 and was praised by Beijing Association of Consumers as the most popular floorboard among Beijing customers this year. How can a consumer doubt the trustworthiness of such a product?

The National Committee for Oral Health is neither a government institution nor a registered non-governmental organization. Even if it were a guild among dentists, it needs to be registered, but this specific group does not. It was originally approved by the Ministry of Health in late 1980s as a dental expert group to provide advice for policy-making on oral health.

There are strict rules for an organization to use the word "national," which usually sends a message that the organization's authority is certified by the central government. How can a consumer get to know that such an organization with the "national" label does not even have a legal identity?

We have enough reason to cry for the lack of intervention of relevant watchdogs, whose negligence has put us in the dark about the truth of some commodities we buy.

We also have enough reason to laugh about the absurdity, which has persisted throughout the last two incidents.

We want to tell those relevant departments in charge of subsequent investigations that pre-emptive probes are necessary to prevent similar things from happening again.

(China Daily 03/18/2006 page4)


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