I went shopping the other day. With gas over $3.50 a gallon, I drove to Waukegan. Why all the way up there? Because some of the best stores for bargains are there. My favorite is HOBO. The one in Waukegan is much better than the one on Grand Avenue. I’d say it’s 10 times as large and filled with furniture, housewares, wood moldings and a greater selection of tiles than the one in Chicago. Was my trip worth the gas? Yup! I had been holding off buying blinds for my bedroom windows. But when I came across aluminum mini-blinds that were $1.99 each, well you can bet all my windows now have blinds in them!

But this column isn’t about all the bargains I found at the store. Instead it’s about today’s bargains that may bring tomorrow’s high-cost merchandise. What do I mean by that? Well since the majority of the housewares were stamped “Made in China” and with gasoline at $3.50 a gallon, how long will items made overseas still be as cheap as they are today?

The mini-blinds I bought had been marked at $9.99. Since they weren’t selling, the price was cut to $1.99. But as we look at how much China is now exporting to America, are we weighing the good vs. the bad? For example, the wheat used in the contaminated pet food had been shipped in from China. Those baby bibs that Wal-Mart recalled a few weeks back had lead in them and again were imported from China. Now there is a recall on toothpaste imported from China that used a derivative of anti-freeze to give it a sweet taste.

Many of us like to shop the bargain stores. Often those stores are what we call the “dollar store.” Initially those stores were filled with overstock items or special buys. Now, because of their popularity, manufacturers are making items for those stores and trying to keep the cost to the consumer at one dollar. In trying to do that, some shortcuts are taking place that can have deadly consequences.

Last month, the Chinese government sentenced one of their governmental officials to death. He was their former head of the China Food and Drug Administration. His crime? He was held responsible for the toxins in food products that are being shipped out of China. Some of the stories like the one about the dog food got a lot of press. Others didn’t, and that is now what is worrying me.

Recently I saw a story about catfish imported from China that contained a deadly toxin in it. Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama have banned imported catfish from China in their state. But I’ve noticed a recent proliferation of fish restaurants opening in our neighborhood. As much as black folks love catfish and since there are huge catfish farms in the South, why is that an item being imported?

But it is. So when you go to a restaurant and you can get catfish as cheap as they sell chicken, I hope you stop and ask where the food is coming from. We all know that the current obesity problem in the black community is directly related to what we are eating. If they put a steroid in the food to fatten the cow, then that same steroid will fatten the person who eats the cow.

I am now a reader of the packaging when I buy anything. I was at a party where someone purchased a frozen drink mix kit. All you had to do was add the alcohol and freeze for several hours. I poured a small glass to taste it, and it did taste good. But once I read that the product was “made in China”, I decided to not drink more. Just as “made in Japan” used to mean an inferior product and now means one of the best products around, “made in China” will also one day mean a great food product. But in the meantime, I’m reading all labels and making decisions based on my own personal safety creed.

Contact: www.arlenejones.blogspot.com