Today, Don Mays, the Senior Director of Product Safety Planning for Consumers Union, gave testimony on the safety of consumer products and food imported from China before the U.S. Senate committee on commerce, science and transportation. His testimony unveiled an eight-step plan of action to protect consumers from hazardous imports. "We believe the responsibility for safety has to be firmly attached to each link in the supply chain," Mays said.
At almost the same time that Mays was testifying, the White House announced the creation of an Import Safety Working Group, to be headed by Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt; other members of the group will include the secretaries of state, agriculture, commerce, transportation, treasury and homeland security, as well as the heads of the Food and Drug Administration and Consumer Product Safety Commission. While raising the oversight process to a cabinet-level role may be a good step, we still believe strengthening existing agencies, including the FDA and CPSC, is vital.
Consumers Union urges more coordination among government agencies as well as better tools and more resources to keep up with the growing number of imports. To accomplish that, CU recommended these eight points of action:
- Provide increased resources to government safety agencies to prevent unsafe products from crossing our borders.
- Prompt the need for pre-shipment inspection and testing by holding importers, distributors, and retailers accountable for bringing unsafe products to the market.
- Develop U.S. government-administered third-party safety certification programs.
- Develop a product traceability program for country-of-origin labeling for food, drugs, and cosmetics, as well as other consumer products.
- Require that importers post a safety bond to ensure they have the resources to recall products if required.
- Give all agencies the power to levy meaningful civil penalties for companies who fail to comply with regulations; and criminal penalties for those who knowingly or repeatedly jeopardize public safety.
- Authorize mandatory recall authority for all government agencies.
- Require all government agencies to publicly disclose information pertaining to safety investigation and reports of adverse events.
Today’s committee meeting was characterized as a "listening session" and we hope the members indeed pay heed.
- Executive Order: Establishing An Interagency Working Group on Import Safety
- U.S. Senate hearing - Safety of Chinese Imports: Oversight and Analysis of the Federal Response
- Can you trust Chinese-made products?
- Tainted animal feed: Why the government's approach isn't working
- Toothpaste trouble: what you need to know now
- Thomas & Friends recall: 1.5 million trains and accessories for lead
- CR Survey: Consumers want country-of-origin labeling
- FDA warning on Chinese fish highlights problems with inspections