It began with the poisoned pets.

Upon hearing that hundreds of cats and dogs had fallen ill, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found in March that various pet foods had been tainted with melamine, a chemical used to make hard plastics.

Then came the discovery that certain toothpastes were tainted with diethylene glycol, a component of some kinds of antifreeze. And finally, sparking the biggest uproar, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced recalls for millions of toys coated with unsafe lead-based paint.

The common denominator: China.

The Asian economic power became the target of unwelcome scrutiny this year for its manufacturing practices, and drew fire when seafood from its fish farms was found to contain illegal chemicals. Officials in Beijing insisted that most of their exports were safe, but they signed an agreement in September to stop the use of lead-based paint on exported toys.

There were few reports of actual illness caused by the various products other than pet food, but American public health officials continued to urge caution.

And big-brand companies such as Mattel scrambled to test their imports and inspect their contractors' plants in China.

- Tom Avril