Open letter to Presidential Candidates
By Consumers Union on Thursday, December 13th, 2007
Dear candidates for The Office of the President,
Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, asks that you publicly support real food safety and product safety reform. We must reduce the lead and other dangerous substances in toys, holiday decorations, and every other product that Americans buy. The increased volume of food and toy imports are posing new challenges. Whether it is a holiday side dish, an electrical cord, a tree ornament, a crib, or a doll, it should be safe and comply with US safety standards.
We have long known the dangers of lead, and yet it appears at high levels in toys our toddlers put in their mouths. We have long understood that major manufacturing has now moved overseas. That does not relieve companies of responsibility for the safety of the products that come back to our shores and our shelves.
We ask that you agree with us on the following key reforms. Even if you do not agree, we ask that you post your position publicly on your campaign website so that voters will know how you recommend we solve this serious, national problem.
- Stronger standards. The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s current lead standards too lax and are out of date. The level of lead allowed in products should be reviewed and reduced. There is no safe level of lead and small children are the most vulnerable to lead’s toxic effects.
- Increased inspection. The CPSC has only half the staff it had when it opened in 1973. Both FDA and CPSC inspect less than 1 percent of imports. They must have more inspectors and product testers to police the market and ensure that all products meet our safety standards.
- Real enforcement power. All agencies with enforcement authority should have the power to levy meaningful civil penalties for manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers who fail to comply with regulations and criminal penalties for the executives of those companies who knowingly jeopardize public safety.
- Independent certification. Independent, government accredited laboratories must ensure that imports meet U.S. safety standards. Products should be required to be tested—before they wind up on our shelves. And US inspectors should be able to visit, and where necessary license foreign production facilities that want to export to US markets.
- Greater retailer responsibility. Retailers must be required to remove all recalled products from shelves promptly, post prominent recall notices, and continue to check products for safety. It should be against the law to sell all recalled products. The retailer is the last stop before a product is bought and must play a role in assuring its safety.
- Recall authority. Food recalls today are “voluntary” so the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has to negotiate its recall requests with companies. FDA and USDA should have mandatory recall authority so that they can insure the quick removal of unsafe food from the shelves.
- Greater public disclosure. The public has a right to know about any reports of unsafe products on the market. All government agencies should be required to publicly disclose information about safety investigations and reports of adverse events.
- Country of Origin information. Consumers have a right to know where the food and products we buy are from. A product traceability program for consumer products, including their components and ingredients, needs to be put in place. And food, as well as consumer products, should be labeled with country of origin.
Thank you in advance for your consideration and quick response. To contact Consumers Union with your position, please email me, Don Mays at action [at] consumer.org. Please provide the link where you post your position to your campaign website.
Senior Director, Product Safety for Consumer Reports and NotInMyCart.org
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