Where did the cadmium come from?

According to the New York Times, McDonald’s is paying customers $2.00 to bring back drinking glasses they bought as a promotion for the movie “Shrek Forever After.” It turns out the painted image of the bright green but gentle ogre contained cadmium — the toxic heavy metal that led to a huge recall of Wal-Mart jewelry earlier this year.

McDonald’s reaction, although the actual risk is not that high, is not surprising, but it did expose a gap in their supply chain of custody system.The company could quickly identify the source of the glasses, but according to the Times, a McDonald’s spokesman said the company didn’t know the source of the paint or the cadmium.

Maybe someone did a risk mitigation analysis and decided a strategy of paying a premium to buy back defective product, and running an aggressive PR campaign to back it up had a better payoff than tracking all raw materials used in a promotional item.

But my guess is that the better investment would have been either a complete supply chain environmental sustainability assessment or a chain of custody system that could track all materials used in the glasses. Either one would have likely turned up a “flagged” chemical, such as cadmium.  As even a consultant for the International Cadmium Association told the Times, “Our position is that cadmium pigments should not be painted on consumer glasses.”

Here’s the link to the New York Times coverage:



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