Take gloves off on fraud
Reports of counterfeit or substandard medical gloves being sold on the market are not new -- in fact, there were more than a few cases reported last year alone. However, the most recent incident that was picked up by international media -- in which tens of millions of fake, low-quality medical gloves were flagged in the United States -- will not only embarrass the country, but severely harm Thailand's budding glove exports.
Whereas the country's overall export rate shrank by 7.8% last year, the export of surgical gloves went up by 125.9%, according to the Ministry of Commerce. Last year, Thailand became one of the top exporters of medical-grade gloves, behind Malaysia and China, with its products exported to the US, the United Kingdom, Japan and Germany.
Needless to say, the recent news will dent the reputation of Thai companies that were linked to the counterfeit products. Therefore, the government, especially the police, must dig deep in order to find those responsible.
The reports point out the complexity of the scam, which runs through the entire product supply chain. In the case reported by CNN, distributors would substitute gloves made by Thai companies for counterfeit and/or substandard products. The exporter and distributor named in the CNN report is based in Bangkok, though the company is owned by a Chinese investor which has known ties to another Thai company that is known for importing questionable goods from China.
Authorities should not stop their investigation here. In fact, the Consumer Protection Police Division (CPPD) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must work harder to crack down on fraudsters selling fake and sub-standard medical equipment on the local market, to make sure all medical products, not just gloves, that are traded are safe.
This is especially important as the Covid-19 pandemic has made medical equipment such as disposable gloves and surgical face masks a new staple of our lives under the new normal -- they have become items that we simply cannot leave home without.
Indeed, with just a click on any online shopping website, or at any market and department stores, people can buy surgical-grade gloves and surgical face mask at very low prices.
Last week, the FDA and CPPD announced the results of its crackdown on counterfeit medical supplies, in which 255 suspects were charged with illegally distributing medical and/or health products worth over 1.6 billion baht in total in the past year alone. Both agencies admitted high-profile cases which revealed the extent of the illicit trade in medical gloves and surgical face masks as well as Covid-related medical equipment.
The government must put more effort into making sure that medical equipment sold on the market is safe, especially given the ongoing pandemic.
Regular quality checks must be made and the FDA must be more proactive in informing the public about which brands are safe, and which ones are not.
The government must not forget; medical gloves and face masks are now a part of the new lifestyle. Without stringent quality control and hygiene checks, Thailand's attempts to beat Covid will be compromised.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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