National Consumers League

Product Safety: Beyond the 'Year of the Recall'


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by NCL Staff

To a crowd of reporters and a handful of consumer advocates, the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Acting Chairman Nancy Nord yesterday described a new import surveillance system that her agency will implement, pending legislation, at many of America’s ports.

The system includes an increased staff presence to better identify potential problem products before they reach the market, Nord said at a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The new tracking system would provide the federal agency with access to real-time information of shipments and would allow the feds to focus on high-risk product shipments. CPSC would also target inspection on imported products that have been identified as riskier to consumers. NCL has voiced its concern over goods imported from China and the implications this practice presents for consumers and the workers that produce such unsafe goods. Additionally, there would be increased enforcement of standards and additional post-recall surveillance, to allow CPSC to address emerging hazards quickly and more efficiently, Nord said.

Despite the proposed changes, at the end of the day, it is the U.S. retailer who has the responsibility to ensure the products they sell are safe, Nord said. She added that unlike the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the CPSC is not designed to test products before they reach the market.

Nord acknowledged that 2007 was publicly perceived as the year of the recall, but she said that CPSC actually issued only a few more recalls last year than the year before (467 in 2006 vs. 472 in 2007). Nord said that recalls don’t indicate that more unsafe products are out in the market, and that the agency has always viewed recalls as a testament to the agency’s enforcement.

Nonetheless, “Change is inevitable, and that is where my focus will be in 2008”, Nord said.

We certainly look forward to holding you to it, CPSC!