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CU calls for action on issues of import safety

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Consumers Union Calls on Congress and the President
to Address Ongoing Safety Issues of Imports

Washington, DC—Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, calls on Congress and the President to strengthen the agencies responsible for product and food safety and to ensure U.S. trade policy adequately addresses the safety demands of a global marketplace.
“The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Food and Drug Administration have not kept up with the challenges of today’s global marketplace,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union, in testimony before the U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade.
In recent years, imports have skyrocketed, especially from China. The value of all imports increased by 67 percent between 2000 and 2006, and today 80 percent of all toys sold in the United States are imported from China. Of all the food we consume, 13 percent is imported, and 83 percent of the seafood is imported.
“The CPSC has half the number of employees it had about 30 years ago and only 15 inspectors to police the millions of toys and products coming into the country at hundreds of entry points. The FDA is equally hamstrung, inspecting less than one percent of all food imports entering the country. This is simply not enough and not acceptable,” added Halloran.
Consumers Union recommends that Congress and the President take steps to increase inspections at our borders and in foreign factories where products being shipped to the U.S. are being produced, and that user fees on imports be considered to help defray the costs of increased inspections. CU also recommends establishing independent third party certification of imports to meet U.S. safety standards, and giving mandatory recall authority to the USDA and the FDA so that they can recall contaminated food quickly. Currently, these agencies must negotiate voluntary agreements with companies to remove tainted products from the marketplace.
“While we need to give our federal safety agencies more tools to do their jobs, we can’t stop there. Trade agreements affect the safety of the products we eat, feed our pets, sleep on, and drive,” added Halloran. “Trade agreements must be designed with protection of product safety in mind.”
Jennifer Fuson 202-462-6262
Naomi Starkman 917-539-3924
To see a copy of the testimony, go to click here.