Keep Hazardous Toys Off Our Shelves

Last year, more than 25 million toys were recalled, many for dangerous lead paint.

But the agency responsible for the safety of more than 15,000 products has only 15 inspectors at ports nationwide and half the staff it had when it was created in the 1970's.

And the tide of unsafe imports continues to rise. It is time for Congress to take action to protect all of us -- especially our children -- from contaminated food and hazardous products before they enter the marketplace. We can't afford to wait any longer.

Help keep your loved ones safe -- urge your members of Congress to act now!

Dear Representative [Last Name],

The recent flood of unsafe Chinese imports into the U.S. -- contaminated pet food, toxic toothpaste, lead-laden toys, hazardous tires, contaminated seafood, and unsafe electrical items -- clearly shows that we are not stopping unsafe products at our borders.

It's time to pass legislation to hold manufacturers, importers and retailers to a higher standard and effectively enforce that standard.

Companies don't always know if products manufactured overseas are safe -- unless they inspect them first. Companies must hire independent, government certified inspectors to ensure that imports meet U.S. safety standards. Products should be tested in the foreign factories and at our ports -- before they wind up on U.S, shelves. And retailers must be required to remove all recalled products from shelves promptly, post prominent recall notices, and spot check products for safety. The retailer is the last stop before a product goes in my cart and must play a role in assuring my family's safety.

The U.S. limited the lead in paint in 1978 and in jewelry in 2005 -- yet millions of lead-painted toys have been recalled in just the past three months. Last year, a child died after swallowing a small lead trinket. Although we know that lead is very toxic, the U.S. does not currently ban lead in all toys. How many more such items may still be sitting in stores around the country with nothing to warn a parent of the danger?

Today's testing and inspection programs for products aren't working. We need higher standards and more enforcement to ensure the safety of our products. If importers, distributors, and retailers were held accountable for product safety, the nature of the way they do business would change dramatically.

But we won't be able to enforce higher standards with the weakened federal infrastructure we have today. Food recalls today are "voluntary" so the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has to negotiate its recall requests with companies, wasting time while people like me continue to buy up the tainted food. We need to be sure that the government can demand the quick removal of unsafe products from the shelves.

U.S. imports from foreign countries nearly doubled since 2000, while the funding for food and product inspection agencies went down or stayed the same. Compared to when it opened its doors in 1973, today's Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is half its original size in both staff and resources. Today's FDA manages to inspect only one percent of all food imports! With so little enforcement, companies that want to risk importing shoddy, unsafe products know they may well get away with it. We can do better.

Please help restore my confidence in the safety of the items in my cart.

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