image from ecowatch.com When one eats food or buys prescription medications in the United States, is there not a general belief that the products are safe, and subject to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspections and oversight? At this point in time, that would not be a reasonable assumption. U.S. corporations delegate the manufacture and inspection to other entities, and recent reports indicate that the inspections of foreign factories cannot be relied upon. A recent audit of a factory making $2 million in items Walmart in Guangdong Province, China is one example: " ...unknown to the inspectors, none of the playful items, including reindeer suits and Mrs. Claus dresses for dogs, that were supplied to Walmart had been manufactured at the factory. Instead, Chinese workers sewed the goods — which had been ordered by the Quaker Pet Group, a company based in New Jersey — at a rogue factory that had not gone through the certification process set by Walmart for labor, worker safety or quality, according to documents and interviews with officials involved. " The Chinese government and American manufacturers both try to create an image of high-quality, inspected and monitored factory manufacturing facilities. So, Walmart might think that the factories they hire are subject to scrutiny, but the rogue manufacturers might be actually manufacturing items instead. This graphic does not guarantee that the manufactured goods are actually made by the factories that are subject to the audits. image from chinese PR. But the reality may be quite different than what all of us want to believe. Greg Gardner, the CEO of Arche Advisors , said that while some American companies (Levi's, Patagonia), opt for expensive and rigorous audits, many other companies go for cheap and limited audits: " Audits can be very brief. A single inspector might visit a 1,000-employee factory for six to eight hours to review all types of manufacturing issues, like wages, child labor or toxic chemicals. Some auditors receive only five days of training, whereas the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires three years of training and experience assisting inspectors before employees can lead an inspection of a sizable factory in the United States ." We are not getting the service from foreign factories that we might expect from American factories. The question is, are we getting what we pay for? Source: " Fast and Flawed Inspections of Factories Abroad ," by Stephanie Clifford and Steven Greenhouse, New York Times , September 1, 2013. Follow up: What products do you use that you wish were manufactured in, and inspected in, the United States? What actions could be taken against the corporations that take advantage of lax foreign inspections? Are we getting what we pay for? Who is doing the paying when it comes to pharmaceuticals? Does the insured consumer have a say?