After recalls of toothpaste, toys and jewelry with high levels of lead and pet food with contaminated wheat gluten, all items made in China, who could blame parents for looking closely at the “Made In…” labels this summer while stocking up on back to school or dorm supplies.

True, there are those “Made in Mexico” and “Made in Vietnam” labels out there, but the one that occurs most frequently is “Made in China.”

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 60 percent of the recalls during the 2007 fiscal year were made in China. Of 320 total recalls through three-quarters of the 2007 fiscal year, 196 of those were items made in China or Hong Kong.

In 2006, items made in China made up 50 percent of all recalls.

So what does that mean for consumers? Should people stop purchasing items made in China all together?

According to Patty Vallese, director of information and public affairs with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, consumers shouldn’t feel the need to boycott products from China.

“Because of trade and economics, the Chinese are becoming much more motivated to reach United States safety standards,” Vallese said. “I think the Chinese are beginning to understand that safety sells. Without safety standards, its going to be their bottom line that is affected.”

Vallese encouraged consumers to purchase products by brands and from retailers they trust.

“I think that consumers should do what they’ve always done - by from retailers you trust and names you know. That is where you will find products that meet safety standards set up by the United States,” Vallese said.

“More and more products are being made in China - purchasing products not made in China will be difficult,” Vallese said. “I don’t think we’ve reached the point that ‘made in China’ should be a warning label.”

Checking for

‘Made In’ labels

By focusing simply on back to school items, consumers will find that it may be impossible to supply their children with everything on the Waxahachie ISD’s school supply list without buying multiple items that were made in China.

That bottle of Elmer’s School Glue, the pink backpack and scissors made for children are all made in China.

Checking the labels on school supplies is quite an educational experience. For those who watched “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” during their childhood, they are sure to remember the episode featuring a Mister Rogers’ visit to the Crayola Factory. So it’s a surprise to find that many of the Crayola items are made in China. Of course, the traditional 24-pack of Crayola Crayons is still made in the USA, but Crayola Pip-Squeaks markers, erasable colored pencils, Heads N’ Tails Markers and Mini Twistable Crayons are all made in China.

Just a walk through the “back to school” section in a Target or Office Depot reveals the United States’ dependency on foreign trade, especially from China: Dora the Explorer and Thomas backpacks - made in China; Jansport, Eddie Bauer and Swiss Gear backpacks - made in China; RoseArt markers and crayons - made in China; Fiskars kids scissors - made in China; Swingline E-Z Use stapler - made in China.

Even the TI-89 calculators that advanced math students will need are manufactured in China. The digital voice recorders that college students buy to enhance their studying are made in China as well.

For the college student looking to deck out his or her new dorm room or apartment with new shower curtains, towels, rugs, furniture, the home d/cor Mecca for the college bound is Target. It’s a little easier to find items made in the United States among the rugs and the storage. Accent rugs and Rug Stay, a TV cart, Sterilite plastic storage bins and a countertop ironing board were all made in the United States. However, mixed in with the Made in USA items were items manufactured in China, such as a bookcase, table and oscillating fans, box fans, hampers, desks and dressers.

On the school uniform front, the cute shirts, jumpers, shorts, skorts and pants are commonly made in China and nations in Asia. Target’s supply of uniform clothing includes jumpers made in China, and other pieces made in Vietnam, Thailand and other nations.

Belk’s uniform supplier, IZOD, features uniform pieces made in China, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.

At Southwest School Uniform Company in Red Oak, brand labels boast fabric made in the United States, but assembly occurs in countries such as El Salvador or Costa Rica. Cherokee and Classroom brands each had skirts made in China, while all of Miss Tulane’s pieces were made in the United States.

For consumers, it is best to be informed and aware. A list of recalled items by the Consumer Product Safety Commission can be found on the commission’s Web site, www.cpsc.gov. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Web site, www.fda.gov, also lists information on recalled food and drug products.

E-mail Mandy at mandy.bourgeois@waxahachiedailylight.com