A day after the Bush Administration unveiled a new Import Safety Action Plan, all eyes have been on the proposal to boost federal resources for food inspections -- a move that generally goes against the conservative, small-government grain of the administration.
True, the plan calls for several things that advocates have long wanted: Authority in the Food and Drug Administration to demand a recall -- rather than rely on voluntary compliance; more inspections by both the FDA and third-party certifiers overseas; and stiffer penalties for failing to produce safe products.
Administration officials say the third-party verification system, and enhanced powers at the FDA, will help boost the market for goods that have a proven safety track record, without over-taxing the federal budget. They emphasize the shift from enforcement to prevention.
But there's a lot that was left out, according to Consumer's Union, the nation's top non-profit watchdog for consumer safety, and the publisher of Consumer Reports.
The Consumers Union has been calling for reforms to the FDA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission for years, and the group's calls seemed prescient in the wake of the food, toy and other product recalls that have rippled through U.S. households this year.
Here's a look at what is not in the Bush plan, according to Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union:
"We support getting toxic lead out of all consumer products, but especially children's toys and other products they use," Halloran said. "With lead-tainted products flooding the market, we are disappointed the Administration appears to have missed an important moment to support eliminating this health threat. Given that this year there has seen a record number of recalls for hazardous products, we feel safety should not be optional or voluntary."
Here's what Consumers Union recommends, in addition to the items noted above:
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