We had some friends over for dinner last night - I will call them Larry and Barry. They both work in the skincare industry, and formulate and produce their own products. They know their stuff when it comes to wrinkle-smoothing and all that sort of thing.
We were talking about manufacturing this stuff, and I asked a question about how long it should last before it expires (until last night, I had never considered that cosmetics and skin care products would have an expiry date, like cheese).
The answer was an interesting one. High end skin care products tend to go off relatively quickly, because they don't use much preservative in them - stuff like parabens. As much as half of a batch of high end product may be destroyed because it expires before sale.
Low end products tend to have a really long shelf life, because they are stuffed full of preservative. Larry mentioned that some of these preservatives are now banned in many western countries, but are still ok for use in Australia. So the companies involved simply shipped all their banned raw materials to China and had it manufactured there for the Australian market. I won't mention them by name, since I have no direct evidence, but here is a clue.
So next time you are shopping for some skin care products, have a look at the expiry date. If it's way out in the never-never, you might want to think about whether you really want to be slathering that stuff on your face. The only way to get it to keep is to whack in horrid amounts of preservative - and the preservative in question was originally developed as a fungicide for paints. Earth-based coloured paints are full of fungus and bacteria, and they need a good glug of preservative to stop the paint from going mouldy.
The other interesting snippet involved those little bottles of stuff that you get in hotels and in first class on airlines. You may notice from now on that the packaging is too small to actually list the ingredients, so we have no idea what is actually in the bottle. All that stuff is now made in China, for as little as 12 cents a bottle - delivered.
Wow. Must be quality stuff.
A certain airline is now managing the handling of all the stuff that goes into their planes from a hub in China, so they have all the disposable stuff made in China and shipped straight to the hub.
Being an airline that is supposedly proud of their origins, they label it as "Australian Made". However, the rules regarding Australian Made say that only 45% by value needs to originate in Australia for it to qualify.
In the case of their little bottles of goo, everything is made in China. The bottle. The raw materials. The mixing. The packaging. The labelling.
What they do though is allocate costs for things like administration, royalties, intellectual property, management and so on to an Australia-based company, which gets them up to the 45% mark by value, and allows them to call it Australian Made. They abide by the letter of the law, but not the spirit.
Funny that, for a company that calls itself "the spirit of Australia".