The Los Angeles Times took a helicopter ride with Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach yesterday to survey the vast shipping ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Like sister ports around the country, they are filled to the brim with bright containers filled with products of all kinds -- including, as American consumers have come to realize, many that fail to meet U.S. standards for basic safety.
Pet food, seafood, toys and toothpaste are just some of the products that have been recalled in high-profile incidents in recent months, which is what prompted the two U.S. officials to demonstrate the vastness of the port's business.
"What strikes you most is the vastness of it," Leavitt told the Times. "The average American simply cannot conceive of how much effort it takes to fill up the pantry of the United States every day, empty it and fill it up again. I'm even more persuaded that we cannot inspect our way to safety."
Leavitt is the point person on a Cabinet-level commission exploring ways to improve the safety of imports. Its initial strategy was released this week, sketching out the broad outline of its mission: Stop the bad imports before they arrive on U.S. shores. It's a huge task, and the right basic strategy. How it is executed will be the critical question going forward.
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