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November 24, 2008

US, EU, and China Reach Toy Safety Agreement

According to Reuters (11/17), the consumer chiefs of the European Union and the United States called on China on Monday to crack down on unsafe products, especially toys, ahead of Christmas.  It's been a rough year for the toy industry, with several major recalls on toys made in China, including one from Mattel.

More than 20 million of the toys recalled worldwide were manufactured in China and it's often so difficult to track major shipments of defective consumer goods that they can enter the distribution chain and wind up on store shelves before anything can be done.  This difficulty may ultimately end up causing a whirlwind of lawsuits and litigation for people on both sides of the supply chain.

And it's not just toys.  China's been rather slapdash in its safety standards for everything from toothpaste to milk to furniture.  Earlier this year, hundreds of Chinese infants were hospitalized after drinking tainted milk.  The world is watching, but is that enough?

Domestically, we're continuing to make progress.  On August 14, President Bush signed a law that overhauls the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).  The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 made consumer products safer by requiring that toys and infant products are tested before they are sold, and by banning toxic chemicals like lead and phthalates in toys. 

The bill also created the first comprehensive publicly accessible consumer complaint database, gave the CPSC the resources and authority it needs to protect the public, increase civil penalties that CPSC can assess against violators of product safety laws, and protect whistleblowers who report product safety defects.

It's tougher when we're talking about toys coming from other countries, particularly China.  Vigilance will be the key here.  It's unacceptable that China can continue to export sub-standard and even dangerous goods to boost its economy.  Developed nations have more responsibility to the safety and wellbeing of the consumers of their products than Chinais currently assuming for all the international consumers of its products.

And, while this agreement is a step in the right direction, legislation must follow at the international level to ensure strict adherence to these new and much-needed policies.

This post was contributed by Kelly Kilpatrick, who writes on the subject of nursing assistant exams. She invites your feedback at kellykilpatrick24 at gmail dot com.

November 24, 2008 | Permalink

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