The 6 Most Horrifying Product Recalls in China
China has a population of all the people in China, and that is a hell of a lot. Are you from Butte? It's more than Butte. With all of those people, you'd be right to assume that a lot of shit gets done in China. Pandas have babies sometimes. Won ton soup gets made. Communism gets communized. There's lots to see and do. And yet, despite being a world superpower and a country with which one does not want to fuck, they have this habitual problem of not just making low budget and shoddy merchandise (that's what every other country that supplies Walmart is for), but making merchandise that has so transcended low budget and shoddy, it's actually mind-blowingly dangerous and borderline insane. Why do so many things in China need to be recalled for being the punchline of a really dark joke? No one knows. And with that, here's some dark punchlines. I'll fill in jokes around them.
Donkey Meat With Fox
Imagine how disgusted and violated and betrayed you would feel if you had just come home from shopping at your local Walmart and were about to put together a delicious meal for the dinner party you're hosting for friends only to discover that your main course, a delicious slab of premium grade Chinese donkey, was nothing more than run-of-the-mill fox meat? Yes, the oldest trick in the donkey meat book has happened again.
I could fill a small novella with the questions I have about how it comes to pass that someone first wanted donkey meat and ended up with fox meat. How is donkey more desirable than fox? How does fox get into donkey meat? Does that mean someone is farming fox and it's an inferior meat? Is fox meat a thing you can buy on its own in China if you want it? Are fox and donkey really so similar that you could pass one off as the other without people noticing, or was this just a really terribly perpetrated fraud? I want to know, and yet at the same time I don't.
Whatever the logistics of the fox/donkey substitution, at the end of the day, Chinese shoppers looking for donkey only want donkey, and fox is unacceptable. The result was a recall of the five-spice donkey meat from Walmart locations in China while officials look into how it came to pass that one of those five spices is a small, wild dog.
Chemical Burn Flip-Flops
I have a love/hate relationship with summer. For instance, you're more likely to see cleavage and/or boob in the summer, and I love that, but you're also more likely to see my boobs or cleavage, and that makes me sad, because I'm less Channing Tatum and more Channing Tater than is entirely healthy or attractive. Also flip-flops. I just don't get 'em. Wear shoes or, if you're going to be drinking near the beach or a fire later, wear sandals (which I hereby deem to be different footwear entirely). What the hell is a flip-flop for? No one knows.
The Dark Lord hath marked his supplicant with the Foot of the Beast!
I suspect the popularity of flip-flops has something to do with the fact that you can buy about six pairs for a buck at most stores, and this is equally true of Walmart. Unfortunately for Walmart and your feet, those flip-flops were of course made in China, where nothing is as it seems! In this case, where it seems like flip-flops should be made of maybe plastic and rubber, someone in China opted to make them from benzene and the angry spirits of dead Mogwai. The result was chronicled back in 2007 on the blog of Kerry Stiles (wicked name), who photographed her feet after wearing the flip-flops and developing a wicked rash/chemical burn that corresponded to the straps of her flip-flops. Over the course of a number of photos, you can watch her skin redden, bubble, lizardify, scab, slough, necrotize, and declare war on all things that walk in the light and embrace goodness.
Other people who bought the same kind of flip-flops reported similar issues, and eventually Walmart took the flip-flops off the shelves, insisting of the millions sold that only a few people were horribly mutilated, so no worries.
In my town, there's a river that runs right through the center of everything and is pretty impressive at some points, with waterfalls, lots of wildfowl, and all that nature-type crap people love. It's also notoriously polluted, and for as long as I can remember, people have joked about how awful it would be to eat any fish you caught in the river, because the decay of the environment around us is worth a chuckle or two. But then in China they raise fish in untreated sewage, so check and mate.
Not being a biologist, I wasn't aware that you could raise fish in raw sewage, but China is industrious, and they're getting seafood to at least mature in a nightmare before they bring it to market for us, and then, to make sure it's safe for human consumption, they seem to be treating it with drugs and chemicals that are deadly, but just in a decidedly different way from raw sewage.
The FDA has to consistently reject imports from China that are rancid with bacteria, carcinogens, and other gut-melting substances, because the FDA stands by a "please no poo-raised food" motto and, frankly, we should all support that.
Related: 5 Fish Clearly Designed by a Madman
I'm not a huge seafood fan, and not just because some of the world's seafood is apparently raised in toilets. I like fish sometimes, but I guess I have to be in the right mood. Other times it's a no-go, like maybe if you showed me the face of a monkfish before you planned to feed it to me, I'd have to turn that shit right down. Monkfish looks like what would happen if a frog and Smaug had a baby, and then that baby grew up and fell in love with a turd and then they had a baby. I guess anything can be eaten in a pinch, but I see no reason to eat devil turd fish, and I'm OK with that choice.
Despite how clearly monkfish shouldn't be eaten, some people enjoy it, and it's occasionally referred to as "poor man's lobster" despite the fact that it may actually cost more than lobster. Go figure. Because it can cost so much, that makes a unique opportunity for unscrupulous fishermen, like the type from China who had their monkfish recalled from three states after it became clear that what was being sold wasn't monkfish at all, but pufferfish.
If you know anything about hilarious and deadly fish species of the world, you know that pufferfish is sometimes served in restaurants, particularly in Japan, and once in an episode of The Simpsons, with the gimmick being that it's deadly poisonous if improperly prepared. A skilled chef can prepare it in such a way that when you eat it, just a hint of the poison is in the meat, causing a numbing sensation in your lips. Isn't that fun? Just a little bit of death is tinglicious. Of course if it's prepared improperly, because maybe you thought the whole thing was a monkfish, you might just kill everyone eating your fish sticks.
Two people in Chicago became ill after eating the fish, which was found to contain tetrodotoxin, which is about 100 times more deadly than cyanide, with a dose of about 25 milligrams being lethal. Around three tons of the fish was sold, but hey, how many people could that kill?
Face-Smashing Pogo Sticks
By now you know to be wary of food imported from China, so let's leave the grocery store behind and head on over to the toy aisle. Yes, China has a history of being convinced that children are more into lead poisoning than actually playing with toys, and as such, many, many, many Chinese toys have been recalled again and again due to toxic lead paint, so I'm not going to bother delving into that except to say that no, China, babies do not love lead paint. Stop that.
Back in 2011, China had been manufacturing some pogo sticks, which for the sake of argument we'll assume were all made from lead paint, but which also had an issue with the frame. The bottom of the frame tube could break. Based on what I read, I think this is pretty much what happened -- you get on the pogo stick, you start to pogo around. You're saying "pogo, pogo, pogo" in your head each time you bounce up and down. Then, on one fateful "po-," the stick buckles like a pilgrim's shoe and your feet keep hurtling toward the ground as the rest of the stick flies up and plants an aluminum kiss square in the center of your face. This resulted in 123 reported injuries, mostly broken teeth and busted-ass faces. The entire run of 169,000 pogo sticks was recalled, but hopefully one or two are still out there, held in rooms like that one from the movie The Conjuring where the psychics kept the creepy doll, waiting for an unsuspecting victim to run afoul of it.
Moon Face Cream
The most terrifying thing about the health and beauty industry is how much implicit trust consumers have to have in order for it to even exist. When you go to the store to buy vitamins or supplements, you're believing that the label is what it says it is. This is ginseng, so it is safe for me to consume. Now if a dude with an eye patch rolled up in a windowless van and held out a handful of curly brown root and told you it was ginseng, you'd probably be disinclined to purchase it from him, but there's very little to separate the validity of the two, because who the hell monitors the stuff in the store? You think someone does, but you might never know until it's too late. Do I have an off-putting story to back me up? You know I do.
A company in China was marketing a brand of skin cream that was widely used to treat eczema in babies. The ingredients consisted of 25 all-natural products, which is a relief until you consider that, in this case, the ingredients list was apparently just 25 words someone pulled out of their ass. The cream was actually laced with a steroid hormone that's extremely dangerous, especially for children, called clobetasol propionate. It's also used for skin conditions, except it shouldn't be used for prolonged periods, shouldn't be used by children, and generally needs a doctor's recommendation. How come? Because using it can cause things like excessive hair growth in women and, in children, Cushing's syndrome, which is characterized by a big, swollen, moon-shaped face, emotional instability, acne, muscle weakening, hair loss, truncal obesity, and buffalo hump. For fuck's sake, buffalo hump! That's not even one of my hilarious pretend things I toss into lists, it's a real thing! Called buffalo hump!
I just call it "hump."
One of the ways it came to light that the cream was causing problem was reportedly thanks to an 8-month-old girl who had been given the cream and started menstruating. That's literally the most horrible sentence I've typed in ages, and you read the kind of shit I write, so that's pretty awful.
Not to worry, though, as the product was recalled and the company was given the stiff fine of $730 American to make them pay for their callous disregard for human safety. That probably showed 'em.