December 28, 2011

"FDA falls short on safety checks on disposable wipes makers."

"Little or no enforcement action taken against those with contamination issues."

ADDED: Isn't it often the case that the thing you're using to try to get cleaner is only making you dirtier? And I mean that question in the broadest possible way.

72 comments:

rhhardin said...

Name the brands and the problem takes care of itself.

No need for the FDA in the matter.

Pogo said...

Why not radiate the wipes before packaging them?

That'll kill bacteria.
And cockroaches.

No effect on razor blades though.

Paul Brinkley said...

What rhhardin said. They're paper towels soaked in soap, for cryin' out loud. My 70-year-old mother could start a business selling them for a penny a piece. You could make one yourself in three seconds.

chuckR said...

What about their coffee filters?

Sometimes there is a reason beyond advertising costs that store brand products are cheaper.....

Freeman Hunt said...

The story says eighteen brands were involved but only names Equate. What are the other brands?

Freeman Hunt said...

I see a science experiment involving swabs, petri dishes, and wipes in my future...

Peter said...

I don't get the dismissal here.

These things are used in hospitals and in doctors offices. And the medical professionals who use them are rarely the ones who buy them.

The assumption is that if it says "sterile until opened" it means just that.

As with most products, manufacturing has been divorced from marketing. Which is to say, one maker of wipes (or canned beans) may sell the product under dozens of different brand names, as well as store brands.

When you eat a can of beans, you have a reasonable expectation that the contents will not cause illness- let alone contain pathogens that are life threatening.

Surely, it is not unreasonable for users of medical supplies to have the same expectation.

Just in purely economic terms- how much sense does it make to pay %5,000. for surgery, only to introduce life-threatening pathogens in a ten-cent wipe?

Ultimately a minimum level of regulation is necessary to keep the marketplace honest. Without it, Gresham's law comes to dominate.

Further, this minimal regulation reduces transaction costs, as you can reasonably expect that can of beans will actually contains beans (and not just water), and that it is unlikely to make you sick, without doing major research before buying and consuming them.

Scott M said...

Ultimately a minimum level of regulation is necessary to keep the marketplace honest.

This minimum level of regulation requires a minimum level of competency, however, and our best and brightest don't go into public service jobs.

kcom said...

Peter, your comment, "as you can reasonably expect that can of beans will actually contains beans (and not just water)" reminded me of this web page I happened upon one day.

Worst Sandwich Ever

DADvocate said...

Uh oh, I love the flushable wipes. As rhhardin says, name the brands.

Jana said...

Paul Brinkley said, "You could make one yourself in three seconds."

You could, yes. But try doing that while trying to contain a squirmy 22-month-old with a very loaded diaper of very creamy "discharge." Suddenly, pre-moistened wipes that won't rip mid-wipe look like a decent investment.

Signed,
Mother of said 22-month-old (who hates nothing more than slowing down for a diaper change)

Freeman Hunt said...

Rhhardin is right. You don't need government sanctions. Just publish the names of the brands.

Freder Frederson said...

Name the brands and the problem takes care of itself.

No need for the FDA in the matter.


Pray tell, without FDA involvement, how are we supposed to know there is a problem?

The Crack Emcee said...

I'm with Pogo on radiation - my roommates thought I was nuts when they saw how (and how often) I use the microwave - but I'm also for strengthening the FDA and other enforcement agencies going after fraud.

That's what men do, BTW.

craig said...

"Ultimately a minimum level of regulation is necessary to keep the marketplace honest. Without it, Gresham's law comes to dominate."

True, but a federal leviathan is not needed to stave off the threat from badly made disposable wipes. Common law and state statutes regarding warranties, truth in advertising, and the like, are sufficient to deal with this.

As to the notion of transaction costs, the whole reason consumer brands evolved was to capitalize the public trust and goodwill that a vendor built up over time about their particular commodities for sale. When the state regulates the content of consumer goods, it dampens the feedback input of those quality signals, and thus contributes to moral hazard. It is just like insured bank deposits: good up to the point that it prevents a systemic collapse, but beyond that it only encourages carelessness.

Sofa King said...

Q:Why not radiate the wipes before packaging them?

A: It would make more sense to irradiate them after packaging.

Q: I don't get the dismissal here.

A: This story does not center around sterile wipes, but baby wipes which do not promise sterility.

Q: Pray tell, without FDA involvement, how are we supposed to know there is a problem?

A: Through independent testing, the same way we learn many interesting facts about products.

bagoh20 said...

"Isn't it often the case that the thing you're using to try to get cleaner is only making you dirtier? And I mean that question in the broadest possible way. "

Oh, I get it - you're talking about when you hire a lawyer.

Freder Frederson said...

Through independent testing, the same way we learn many interesting facts about products.

And who is going to pay for the independent testing?

bagoh20 said...

"Ultimately a minimum level of regulation is necessary to keep the marketplace honest."

Yea, but you can't do much corrupting or monopoly building with minimal regulation, so that minimal part never survives the first round through the bureaucracy.

"You could make one yourself in three seconds."

Maybe I'm a freak, but I buy these things and then pour in some isopropyl alcohol to make them actually useful. I guess you could use peroxide too. Manufacturers won't do this anymore because of lawyers. Eventually we will have to go back to doing everything ourselves if we want it done right.

I also install two shower heads in each shower and often flush twice. I buy TSP and add it to my laundry detergent, and hose down my driveway in the dark.

With all this government help, you have to be revolutionary just to get through the day.

Freder Frederson said...

When the state regulates the content of consumer goods, it dampens the feedback input of those quality signals, and thus contributes to moral hazard.

What moral hazard is that? The one that says consumers should be entitled to purchase products that make them sick? It might be easy to see quality in a toy (unless of course the toy is contaminated with lead) or simple product, but do you really expect consumers to have biological testing kits at their disposal so they can check the purity of the products they are buying?

Freder Frederson said...

I buy TSP and add it to my laundry detergent, and hose down my driveway in the dark.

You do realize that phosphorus pollution is a serious problem. Just because you (or DBQ) don't like a regulation, doesn't mean there isn't a good reason for it. I bet you are pissed you can't buy a halon fire extinguisher or asbestos brake pads any more either.

bagoh20 said...

Once I put a soda bottle in the wrong color garbage can. I chased the garbage truck for a mile, but couldn't catch him cause it took me too long to put on the bicycle helmet, and I didn't want to get another ticket for that too.

Freeman Hunt said...

Freder, have you ever heard of UL?

Freder Frederson said...

I also install two shower heads in each shower and often flush twice

That is just plain stupid. I have never seen a shower head where the water saving constrictor wasn't easily removable. This meme that you are forced to conserve water when you take a shower is ridiculous and simply untrue.

Freeman Hunt said...

How about ETL?

GPE said...

Isn't it often the case that the thing you're using to try to get cleaner is only making you dirtier?

Isn't that the truth. Every time I try to do some honest money laundering, I get a longer and longer sentence.

EDH said...

That's why I keep a damp rag hanging by the toilet for everyone to share after repeated use.

You can't be too careful when it comes to personal hygiene.

Freder Frederson said...

I chased the garbage truck for a mile, but couldn't catch him cause it took me too long to put on the bicycle helmet, and I didn't want to get another ticket for that too.

I know you are being facetious, but in what jurisdiction are adults required to wear bike helmet. And where in this country is recycling mandatory?

Freeman Hunt said...

And where in this country is recycling mandatory?

It was mandatory where my mother lived in Washington. Here, it's mandatory to pay for it.

frankz said...

my mother, a woman of the depression who had a lot of common sense, could not abide all this antibacterial stuff. she believed kids needed to be exposed to some germs to build up their defenses. too bad she didn't live to see this karma.

frankz said...

gpe, lol!!

Freder Frederson said...

Freder, have you ever heard of UL?

And your point is? Submitting products to UL is entirely voluntary and the manufacturers pay for the certification. It is hardly a substitute for government regulation. E.g., you could have the safest appliance in the world but if your wiring isn't up to code you can still have a disastrous fire.

But of course you probably think the government has no business establishing building codes or fighting fires either.

Freeman Hunt said...

But of course you probably think the government has no business establishing building codes or fighting fires either.

That's a bit desperate.

You wanted to know who would do product safety testing if not the government. You wanted to know how that testing would be paid for. You got your answers.

What that has to do with building codes and fire fighting, I've no idea.

Freder Frederson said...

It was mandatory where my mother lived in Washington. Here, it's mandatory to pay for it.

Good for them and good for where you live--most people don't pay anywhere near the actual cost of disposing of their garbage.

I live in a backwards part of the country where until recently we didn't even have voluntary curbside recycling.

Freeman Hunt said...

Good for them and good for where you live--most people don't pay anywhere near the actual cost of disposing of their garbage.

LOL So first it was "Nobody makes anybody do that!" Now it's "Good! People should be made to do that!"

You're a trip.

edutcher said...

For all of Freder's panic over what would we do without the FDA, it would seem we do just fine.

Apparently, the whistleblowers' (whose motivation remains a mystery) concern was not serious enough to prompt government action.

Unfortunately, however, the Feds usually can't wait to do their imitation of Walter Peck.

Freder Frederson said...

Through independent testing, the same way we learn many interesting facts about products.

And who is going to pay for the independent testing?


The same people who pay for the FDA.

bagoh20 said...

"I bet you are pissed you can't buy a halon fire extinguisher or asbestos brake pads any more either."

I bet you're happy about the 50 million dead African children due to the ban on DDT.

But on to something you probably find more serious:

I'm not allowed to hose off my driveway, but there is a 24/7 stream of runoff going down my street from the leaky lawn watering on the public school across the street. It's been known for years, but nothing will be done.

See the law is not there to actually fix things. Most of them are there to satisfy a special interest's emotional drive fed by meetings and emails where they all hype each other up to "Do something about this outrage!" and nothing more. When they get what they want, they just move on to screw something else up with another solution that's worse than the problem.

Robert Cook said...

"my mother, a woman of the depression who had a lot of common sense, could not abide all this antibacterial stuff. she believed kids needed to be exposed to some germs to build up their defenses."

My mother, a retired nurse, believes the same thing.

Freeman Hunt said...

Also, note the quote in the title of this post.

"The FDA took no enforcement action."

"A review of case files and an analysis of the FDA's inspection database by the Journal Sentinel shows lax manufacturing practices by the wipes manufacturers, shoddy oversight by the FDA and a failure by anyone to adequately notify the public of health risks."

"he FDA has not inspected several thousand drug and device makers in at least five years, and hundreds of plants have not seen an inspector in a decade. Despite the whistleblower's warning and serious problems found in the Arkansas plant, Rockline's flagship plant in Sheboygan was last inspected in 1992. FDA records show Rockline's plant in south China and products shipped from there have not been inspected. By law, both plants are supposed to be inspected every two years."

Care to reconsider your faith in government?

Sofa King said...

Q: And who is going to pay for the independent testing?

A: Ultimately, consumers will pay for it, if it is something they value.

Q: What moral hazard is that? The one that says consumers should be entitled to purchase products that make them sick?

A: Yes, more or less. A consumer should be able to decide what level of quality assurance they are willing to pay for. If I want to buy the absolute cheapest wipes that have no third-party quality seals and no insurable rating for the purpose of wiping down my garage floor, I should have that choice. Furthermore, market-based QA is far less expensive and more reliable than government agencies performing the same function.

bagoh20 said...

"I have never seen a shower head where the water saving constrictor wasn't easily removable."

Now everybody is a rebel. How am I gonna get chicks being a rebel if the weenies are out posing too.

It's one thing to be against regulation, but being for it while advocating breaking it, worse than being wrong - it's evil.

MikeR said...

"the thing you're using to try to get cleaner is only making you dirtier?" ** Our dishwasher. People fill it with drinking glasses and a very dirty pot, with crusted-on gunk. Result: A lot of formerly clean drinking glasses with crusted-on gunk.

Just rinse the glasses and rub the rims a little in running water, kids! They don't need the dishwasher at all. And soak the pot first!

Sofa King said...

Q: And your point is? Submitting products to UL is entirely voluntary and the manufacturers pay for the certification. It is hardly a substitute for government regulation. E.g., you could have the safest appliance in the world but if your wiring isn't up to code you can still have a disastrous fire.

A: It's not "entirely voluntary" for the manufacturers if they want to be insured at reasonable rates. You do know what the "U" in "UL" stands for, don't you? Your point about bad wiring is irrelevant to the safety of the manufactured product.

Sofa King said...

Q: Care to reconsider your faith in government?


A: No, he does not. Any failure of government to live up to the faith he puts in it is simply the fault of evil libertarians and conservatives having insufficient faith, and providing insufficient ransom. He believes, if onlu everyone had as much faith as he did, then his faith would be rewarded.

Robert Cook said...

"When you eat a can of beans, you have a reasonable expectation that the contents will not cause illness- let alone contain pathogens that are life threatening."

We can only have that "reasonable expectation" as a result of the work done on our behalf by the various government regulatory and oversight agencies whose function is to help insure cans of beans and other products we purchase are safe.

It's funny how those who, as a group, have spent decades decrying the supposed evils of government oversight of business trade and practices call for "minimal regulations" when it is discovered that--absent fear of legal sanction--businesses often have no compunction about selling compromised or faulty or unsanitary or otherwise shoddy or unsafe goods.

I thought caveat emptor was the slogan of you rugged individualists? If it was good enough for our intrepid forbears shouldn't it be good enough for us? So a few (or a lot!) of people are cheated or get sick or are injured or die before a particular product (or class of products) are discovered to be fraudulent or dangerous to our health and safety...that's just the "independent testing" that true believers assert will prevail in place of the abomination of government regulatory agencies...and we will be doing the testing!

DADvocate said...

And who is going to pay for the independent testing?

The same people that pay for Consumer Reports (Consumers Union). A lot of people like myself who fork out a measly twenty something dollars a year. You, of all people, should be aware of the Consumers Union.

DADvocate said...

We can only have that "reasonable expectation" as a result of the work done on our behalf by the various government regulatory and oversight agencies whose function is to help insure cans of beans and other products we purchase are safe.

No, another lie. There are other ways to handle the problem. Look at the failure of government oversight just just this year.

bagoh20 said...

Imagine the government regulating what we are doing right now. Would that be better? For some I'm sure it would be, and after a decade of it, people would say: "It's crazy to have internet without regulation." And they would list all the terrible things that would go wrong, that somehow we currently live with. Any doubt?

rhhardin said...

Paying for independent testing.

The industry finds it profitable to set up testing and certification to keep out cheap competitors, if they're cheap by being careless.

The testers are selling their service the same way.

Private sector workers get rich only by making somebody else rich. Government workers get rich by screwing the population. Take your choice.

Robert Cook said...

Dadvocate, it may be those failures of government oversight--aside from the statistical percentage of failures one would expect in any case, as there can never be assurance that even the most stringent oversight efforts will prevent or catch all instances of unsafe products reaching the public--are a result of the lessening of funding for the oversight agencies and/or the weakening of laws that give them enforcement authority.

Or, if there is this much failure with an oversight system in place, how much worse would it be if there were no oversight function by the government?

bagoh20: No one is saying the government should regulate everything. The oversight agencies we have are a result of public outcry over unsafe or fraudulent goods and services that have been sold in the past, and if we still have any sort of representational republic--a big if, admittedly--the public still has sway over what is regulated and how.

Those who believe the internet should be free of regulation can and should write to their senators and congresspersons and otherwise participate in activities to let our lawmakers know we object to such regulation.

(Ah, but the bug in the butter is this: it is big business--those job-producers who should never be regulated--who want the internet to be regulated, as the regulations will be crafted to allow them to better and more rapaciously monetize the internet for their profit, at expense of our freedom to access and use this communications medium freely...as we have done for the brief life up to this point of the world wide web.)

Robert Cook said...

"Government workers get rich...."

Wha---hahahahaha! Who says government workers are getting rich?!

Unless by "government workers" you mean the Congresspersons who take bribes--er, campaign contributions--from big business lobbyists to insure government does the bidding of big businesses rather than that of we, the people.

Sofa King said...

Q: Or, if there is this much failure with an oversight system in place, how much worse would it be if there were no oversight function by the government?


A: That's actually a really interesting counterfactual; I will posit that the answer is not as obvious as you seem to think. Consider that in the status quo, independent oversight is almost completely undercut by government monopoly.

Sofa King said...

Wha---hahahahaha! Who says government workers are getting rich?!


Some government workers are getting very rich through pension schemes and such. Government workers are considerably better compensated than the average worker - whether that makes them "rich" or not is a matter of perspective, I would suppose.

craig said...

Freder Frederson said...

"What moral hazard is that? The one that says consumers should be entitled to purchase products that make them sick?"

That's called being a adult free citizen. Seriously.

If individuals are incapable of deciding what are and are not acceptable personal risks, given the perceived benefits of a potential action, then they are children, properly speaking. Your attitude presumes that they need the supervision of their betters, and that the whole 200-year American experiment in liberty is a failure.




Robert Cook said...

"Or, if there is this much failure with an oversight system in place, how much worse would it be if there were no oversight function by the government?"

This precise view is how the regulatory code got to be 100,000 pages long. There is no room in the 'progressive' paradigm for the idea that any system can suffer from over-management. Whenever any anomaly or failure occurs, whatever the cause, it is deemed necessary to react by adding more bureaucratic oversight.

Robert Cook said...

"Some government workers are getting very rich through pension schemes and such. Government workers are considerably better compensated than the average worker - whether that makes them "rich" or not is a matter of perspective, I would suppose."

Who are these "some government workers...getting very rich through pension schemes and such?" How "rich" is "very rich." What is this "such" that they're getting rich from? And by "pension schemes" do you mean--their pensions--or do you suppose they're involved in schemes to defraud their employers?

What "average workers" do you refer to, and which government workers are you comparing them to who are "considerably better compensated" than they?

As in any other sector of paid endeavor, I'm sure one will find in government employment an array of jobs and corresponding pay scales that range from low to high, as well as a variety of factors (such as cost of living variances) that influence the going rates of pay.

Freeman Hunt said...

(Ah, but the bug in the butter is this: it is big business--those job-producers who should never be regulated--who want the internet to be regulated, as the regulations will be crafted to allow them to better and more rapaciously monetize the internet for their profit, at expense of our freedom to access and use this communications medium freely...as we have done for the brief life up to this point of the world wide web.)

Bingo!

Therein lies the argument for limited government.

The government is not some sweet, benign overseer, it is a tool of power that will be used by whoever can grasp it. Make it a tool of little power and people find their time and resources better spent earning money by providing things people want than they do by using the government to steal it.

Sofa King said...

Who are these "some government workers...getting very rich through pension schemes and such?" How "rich" is "very rich." What is this "such" that they're getting rich from? And by "pension schemes" do you mean--their pensions--or do you suppose they're involved in schemes to defraud their employers?


For someone who hates Scott Walker as much as you do, the name "Tom Ament" ought to ring a few bells...

Sofa King said...

You know, Robert, I think I may have confused you with Roesch-Voltaire. If you aren't a Wisconsinite, I forgive you for never having heard of Tom Ament. But it is still on point, IMO.

PatCA said...

"...mold and foreign objects in the wipes, such as a dead cockroach and razor blade."

Oh please! BS! This smacks of a competitor's mischief making. Or urban legend. Or nuisance settlement bait.

Everyone always finds cockroaches and razor blades in stuff-- when it pays off.

raf said...

One reason that government oversight fails is that the relevant government agency is eventually captured by those evil corporate special interests who promote regulations to disadvantage competition. With private organizations, there is always a chance of failure (as in going out of business), with governmental organizations, not so much. This lack of a control loop allows ever increasing scope.

Isn't it often the case that the thing you're using to try to get cleaner is only making you dirtier? And I mean that question in the broadest possible way.

Compensatory discrimination. Bigots against bigotry.

mariner said...

bagoh20,
I also install two shower heads in each shower and often flush twice. I buy TSP and add it to my laundry detergent, and hose down my driveway in the dark.

Maybe you should change your username to severalbagsoh20.

Just sayin' ;)

Scott M said...

I also install two shower heads in each shower and often flush twice.

Apparently bagoh20's toilet is set to stun, not kill.

EMD said...

And where in this country is recycling mandatory?

Have you been to San Francisco?

My grandfather once found part of a flattened mouse in a can of Pringles.

mariner said...

Robert Cook,
(Ah, but the bug in the butter is this: it is big business--those job-producers who should never be regulated--who want the internet to be regulated, as the regulations will be crafted to allow them to better and more rapaciously monetize the internet for their profit, at expense of our freedom to access and use this communications medium freely...as we have done for the brief life up to this point of the world wide web.)

YES!

And don't forget the politicians who wish to squelch criticism of their corruption.

Robert Cook said...

"Therein lies the argument for limited government."

No...therein lies the argument for strict limits on business influence on Washington.

"The government is not some sweet, benign overseer, it is a tool of power that will be used by whoever can grasp it. Make it a tool of little power and people find their time and resources better spent earning money by providing things people want than they do by using the government to steal."

The government will accrue power...as it must, in order to deal with the complex problems and needs of a nation of our size and complexity. It is a tool of power, but it must be we, the people who grasp it.

It is when business gains undue influence in Washington--as it has long since done--that the people's rightful power is usurped.

Mary Beth said...

Rockline founder Ralph Rudolph, father of Randy, was a pilot for the German military during World War II....

I can't decide if I'm more interested in why they included this or why they phrased it the way they did.

Robert Cook said...

Sofa King, you're right: I'm not a Wisconsinite and the name Tom Ament is unknown to me.

Sofa King said...

The government will accrue power...as it must, in order to deal with the complex problems and needs of a nation of our size and complexity. It is a tool of power, but it must be we, the people who grasp it.

The problem is that "we the people" exists as a *concept* only, not as an actual being capable of grasping. "We, the people" are no more capable of *actually* grasping power than "freedom," "democracy," or "the ideal table" are. They are all intangible concepts.

Real power, however, must really be grasped in reality by tangible beings. None of these tangible beings actually are "we, the people." So what you propose is a literal impossibility, forever.

Freeman Hunt said...

I would only add to Sofa King's comments, which are spot on, that you are trying to ride a tiger and should know that it cannot be done.

Powerful enough to consume all of your problems, powerful enough to consume you.

Robert Cook said...

So, Sofa King, I see you don't believe democracy, or representative republicanism, are actually possible.

Sofa King said...

No, I don't see how that is a reasonable restatement of my argument. What I am saying is that neither democracy not representation actually result in "we, the people" actually controlling the levers of power. You seem to believe in some kind of transubstantiation whereby a *process* becomes a tangible *thing* capable of autonomous power grasping and proper judgment.

Robert Cook said...

No, I'm saying that if we, the people wish to maintain the power that is rightfully ours, rather than let it be usurped by the big money interests, we must be actively engaged in the political process at all levels from local on up and all the time.

As a nation, we are largely disengaged from our political process, and going to the polls every so often to cast votes--those few of us who do--is the least that is required of us if we want to be the governors of our rightful power. In our absence, others rush in to profit by using the power we leave unused.

Self-governance--"democracy"--is hard work that never ends. If we want it, we must do the work.