Wal-Mart sets new quality standards for products from China

Share story

BEIJING — Wal-Mart said Wednesday it will set new quality standards for its suppliers after a series of scandals involving Chinese-made products, which account for a major portion of the company’s sales.

Mike Duke, vice chairman of Wal-Mart’s international division, said the company has been working on the initiative for three years, but recent scandals over the quality of Chinese-made products have made transparency in the supply chain “even more important.”

“We have to ask all our suppliers to take full responsibility,” Duke said. “Not … just the factories or final production, but to go all the way upstream to look at any products, any raw materials that go in the products.”

While Duke said the new standards applied to all products, confidence in Chinese products has been sagging after high levels of industrial toxins were found last year in exports ranging from toothpaste to toys.

In 2007, melamine was found in a Chinese-made pet-food ingredient and blamed in the deaths of dozens of dogs and cats in North America. In August 2007, Wal-Mart quietly began pulling two brands of dog treats from its shelves after tests found they contained traces of the industrial chemical melamine. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer began the tests after several customers complained about the items sickening their dogs.

Later that year, Mattel recalled more than 21 million Chinese-made toys worldwide because they contained lead paint or tiny, detachable magnets that might be swallowed.

Contamination has since turned up in powered and liquid milk, yogurt and other products made with milk.

Earlier, in remarks at a Wal-Mart-sponsored conference on sustainability and manufacturing in Beijing, Duke said starting next month suppliers will be required to “tell us the name and location of every factory they use to make the products we sell.”

“Essentially, we expect you to ask the tough questions, to give us the answers and, if there’s a problem, to own the solution,” told suppliers at the conference.