CPSC to Open Beijing Product Safety Office

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) just announced yesterday that it is creating its first overseas office in China, the Global Times reported. The move is meant to increase cooperation between China and the United States concerning <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/product_liability">product quality and safety, added the Global Times.

“It is very important that we maintain a good relationship with the AQSIQ (China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine), as well as have a proactive approach in working with the Chinese government and Chinese manufacturers,” CPSC chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum told reporters, speaking at a press briefing at the US embassy in Beijing, quoted the Global Times. Tenenbaum pointed out that 45 percent of all consumer products and 90 percent of toys sold in the US come from the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong, the Global Times added.

Although the CPSC, under its new leadership, has been working to ensure imports coming into this country are safe for American consumers, the process is proving difficult. The CPSC is the agency charged with making sure consumer products are safe for human health and use.

According to Tenenbaum, the new Beijing office will not test or certify Chinese products, which will be handled by an external laboratory, said the Global Times. “The office will work with the AQSIQ to be a resource to Chinese manufacturers in terms of our standards and requirements and go to the provinces to ensure that they understand our requirements,” said Tenenbaum, quoted the Global Times. Tenenbaum also said she hopes the new “cooperation” will be “proactive” and “preventative” not simply recall driven, reported the Global Times.

In recent years, the Commission has come under pressure over the increasing number of recalled lead-tainted products, many from China. In 2009 we wrote that the CPSC was planning to open an office in Beijing, in part, to ensure exports coming into the US from China are safe and following an unprecedented number of recalls that involved consumer products, children’s toys, pet food, fish, dairy products, and toothpaste, to name just some. Compounding the issue was the toxic Chinese drywall debacle that caused illness and raised alarm with residents nationwide.

Prior to chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum’s appointment, the agency and its former acting commissioner, Nancy Nord, were taken to task for the Commission’s slow response to a variety of consumer issues, including the growing Chinese drywall problem. Sadly, problematic Chinese imports made headlines well before the nationwide toxic Chinese drywall debacle. For instance, as far back as March 2007, scores of pet deaths and illnesses across North America were linked to a toxic ingredient that was manufactured in China, bringing attention to an issue that soon involved toxins in a wide variety of products, foods, and medications.

Tenenbaum pointed out that the office is not an indication that the US is “more” concerned with the safety of products produced in China, saying that the CPSC has seen “big” progress in the quality of those products, wrote the Global Times. “We are seeing improvements in terms of the number of Chinese products recalled,” said Tenenbaum, pointing to a drop in recalls in from 2008, quoted the Global Times.

The new office will work out of the US embassy and will be manned with two staff, an attaché, and a safety specialist. Jeff Hilsgen, the new attaché, said he believes his greatest challenge will be getting “a more complete picture” about how the AQSIQ “handles product safety in China,” wrote the Global Times.

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