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United States And China Agree On Product Safety Programs

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Following a four-day consumer safety summit meeting in Beijing, US and Chinese product safety officials announced agreement on an action plan designed to boost quality control and attack the problem of unsafe imports of consumer products.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says the new efforts will place special emphasis on toys and other children's products, all-terrain vehicles, electrical products lighters and fireworks. Some apparel products could be affected, as CPSC over the years has issued a number of product recalls, primarily for violation of flammability standards. In addition, there could be a problem with the formaldehyde content of textile products, as there have been reports of excess amounts of formaldehyde in Chinese products intended for use by children. The recently enacted Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act directs the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study of the use of formaldehyde in textile products and to prescribe consumer product safety standards.

The reputation of China's poorly regulated industries has caused considerable concern in the United States, particularly with respect to the safety of toys and other products used by children.

The action plan announced by CPSC and China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine calls for a systematic improvement of practices in the supply and distribution chain designed to enhance product safety.

At the conclusion of the summit, CPSC Chairman Inez M. Tenenbaum said "times have changed," and she announced plans to introduce policies and activities during the coming months to emphasize the need for US importers, as members of the supply and distribution chain, to be more accountable for product safety. Both sides in the negotiations emphasized that the best way to address problems is for manufacturers to build safety into their products at every stage of production. Among other things, Tenenbaum said CPSC will create and promote a new Handbook for Importing Safer Consumer Products, and it will produce a number of webinars for US importers of consumer products, focusing on steps to ensure adequate pre-market testing.

November 3, 2009

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