ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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ANSI Conference Seeks to Build Confidence in Consumer Products

Building Consumer Confidence Event Takes Place in Washington, DC

Washington, Sep 26, 2007

On September 26, 2007, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) brought together over 100 representatives from the public and private sectors to identify steps that can be taken to build upon the standards and conformity assessment-based systems that are already in place to protect consumers from unsafe goods.

“Anyone who has picked up a newspaper in the past several months realizes that consumer safety issues are causing a nationwide crisis of confidence,” said S. Joe Bhatia, ANSI president and chief executive officer. “The standards and conformity assessment community must work in partnership with the government to identify necessary, workable, and immediate actions that can be taken to ensure that only safe products will be found on our shelves.”

Building Consumer Confidence attendees examined the relationship between regulations and standards, agreeing that the private-sector standards and conformity assessment system is best equipped to develop and implement efficient, timely, and cost effective solutions.

“ANSI and ANSI-accredited organizations are key in developing, updating, and overseeing the literally thousands of standards that make our products safer,” explained Nancy Nord, acting chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), during her keynote address. “Standardization and conformity assessment activities are critical, and they lay the groundwork for the efforts of the CPSC and other federal agencies.”

Conference participants were asked to keep a series of questions in mind throughout the day’s discussions:

  • How do we build better safety procedures into product life cycles?
  • How can we ensure the integrity of the current import system?
  • What can we do to restore consumer trust?
  • How will the successful U.S. public-private partnership extend into the global community?

In addition, participants were challenged to identify where the process should be in one year's time.

In response to these questions, a series of three panel presentations offered case studies from the perspectives of industry, government, consumers, and standards developing organizations. In all three panels, presenters identified the pressing need for formalized conformity assessment and compliance programs.

For the short term, ANSI has prepared a conference outcome testimony for presentation to the Interagency Working Group on Import Safety during their public hearing on October 1. [see related article] The testimony details the relationship between standards and regulations, and identifies a formalized third-party verification system as a recommended solution to increase product safety and rebuild consumer confidence.

For the long term, panelists acknowledged the critical role of education up and down the supply chain, from suppliers and manufacturers to standards developers, contractors, importers, retailers, and buyers.

Participants asked ANSI to consider forming a coalition of stakeholders dedicated to establishing this educational program, as well as addressing other identified consumer product safety challenges. Issues that may be addressed by the coalition, including gap analysis and continuous testing and inspection regimes, will need to involve all parties at all levels, acknowledging the accountability of the entire supply chain in keeping consumer products safe.

“As we look to the education of the global supply chain, we must demonstrate that everyone has a role and a responsibility in the process,” explained Scott Cooper, ANSI vice president for government relations and public policy. “We need to identify carrots that will help encourage compliant behavior, and we need to have credible sticks that will increase penalties and provide other disincentives for violations.”

Conference proceedings, presentations, and the conference outcomes testimony are available for review and download on the event webpage.

Please click here to view the conference's flyer.