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New Import Safety Report to President Issued by Interagency Working Group

New York, Jul 01, 2008

cargo ship According to a report released today by the Interagency Working Group on Import Safety, significant strides have been made in the past year to improve the safety of imported products. Import Safety – Action Plan Update outlines the steps taken by federal government, private sector, and international parties to bolster import safety nationwide and worldwide.

The Working Group, established by Executive Order to review current import safety practices and provide recommendations for further improvements, released its third report to the President during a media briefing with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary and chair to the Working Group Michael Leavitt, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Stephen Johnson, and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) acting chair Nancy Nord.

Specific accomplishments outlined in the report include:

  • The Toy Industry Association (TIA) partnered with ANSI to create a safety assurance program for toys. [see related article]

  • The EPA signed an agreement with China to protect human health and the environment in the field of imported and exported products.

  • The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agency is coordinating to ensure harmonized government procedures and requirements exist in importation.

  • The U.S Government (HHS, USDA and the Department of Commerce) participated in a forum with Central American countries to discuss ways to ensure the safety of manufactured goods and foods as they move between countries.

Deemed a “progress summary,” the document details the accomplishments of international efforts, private sector engagements, and U.S. government initiatives to strengthen the import safety system. These achievements include the signings of relevant Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs), collaboration with international officials, initiatives to draft guidance documents, and actions taken against the import of foods and medicines that appear tainted or adulterated.

The report also previews selected plans for near- and long-term initiatives.

The briefing, held at 12:00 p.m. in Washington, DC, was attended by representatives from television networks, newspapers, major news wires, and influential trade media. Discussion at the briefing centered on food safety and the recent concerns regarding the spread of salmonella, possibly from tainted tomatoes.

Secretary Leavitt spoke on the Working Group’s recommendations for improving food safety, including enhancing coordination with state and international parties and focusing on research to better understand and respond to food-borne illnesses.

“I am convinced that countries that lead the charge for safety in a global marketplace will prosper as they protect the health and safety of their citizens and effectively facilitate trade,” said Secretary Leavitt. “I am proud to report that the United States is at the forefront of this charge.”

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is collaborating with the Working Group and eleven other organizations to call attention to the importance of import safety through next week’s Import Safety Summit. More than 300 attendees have registered for the July 9 event, which will feature keynote speaker Secretary Leavitt, as well as a panel of C-Suite executives from a broad range of consumer-focused companies.

Complete program information and online registration is available on the Import Safety Summit webpage. Registration is required by Tuesday, July 8, 2008.

For more information on the Import Safety – Action Plan Update, please see the Import Safety – Action Plan Update report; the HHS news release; and the HHS fact sheet.

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