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Stemming the tide

By Max Cacas

Two federal agencies are embarking on a pilot program to engage importers in the battle against unsafe consumer products.

Those agencies are the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and U.S. Customs and Border protection. The program is called “Importer Self Assessment Product Safety”. Its a voluntary effort in which the two organizations engage major importers in the effort to stop unsafe goods, according to CBP commissioner Ralph Basham.

“I don’t care how large, or well funded an agency is,” he told reporters, “you just can’t get the job done alone, and it’s these types of partnerships that are absolutely essential if we are going to protect this country.”

Nancy Nord, the CPSC’s Acting Chairman, says the program is designed to let importers fill out a 400 page form outlining their importing activities over the last year or so. CBP and SPSC would then audit the firms to determine their rate of compliance, and whether the goods they brought into the country had been the subject of any recalls or other consumer actions.

“The point of this,” she said in the joint agency briefing, ” is that we can catch more violative product sooner and more effectively.”

Nord adds that the recent seizure of unsafe baby cribs is one example of products that were intercepted as part of the pilot program before they made it into the retail stream, and onto store shelves.

Details of the pilot program were published in yesterday’s Federal Register.

CPSC and CBP already have one major importer, retailer JC Penney, working with them under the pilot program to screen for unsafe consumer goods.

Basham and Nord say that making the program permanent at an undefined point in the future will depend on their success in engaging industry in the effort.

(Copyright 2008 by All Rights Reserved.)