Brown, Casey Introduce New Food And Product Safety Legislation

WASHINGTON, DC – In the wake of numerous recalls of food and products imported from overseas, U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bob Casey (D-PA), today introduced the Food and Product Responsibility Act of 2007. The Brown-Casey Bill would safeguard U.S. consumers against unsafe food and products and promote sound business practices among distributors of food and products.

“From food to toothpaste, toys to tires, we must do more to protect our families from contaminated and defective imports.” said Senator Brown. “We need a new approach to import safety. We need to protect consumers while forcing distributors to ensure their products are safe.”

"It seems like you can't turn on the TV without hearing about a new product recall," said Senator Casey.  "In Pennsylvania, we saw another side of this issue when defective tires caused a fatal accident and the company initially said that it could not afford to conduct a recall.  This legislation will help ensure that consumers are better protected from faulty products."  

Tainted imports from China and other countries have, in recent months, led to the recalls of hundreds of thousands of toys, tires, food products, and pet food products. For example, in May the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) ordered the tire importer, Foreign Tire Sales, to recall around 450,000 tires. The company said such a recall would force it into bankruptcy. The Brown-Casey legislation would require a responsibility certificate guarantee by a third party that the distributor can afford the recall, preventing situations similar to Foreign Tire Sales.

With 76 million Americans sickened each year from food borne illnesses, consumers are demanding stricter food safety laws. Food imports constitute a growing share of what Americans eat and what is sold on grocery shelves across the country. In 1996, the U.S. had an agricultural trade surplus of more than $27 billion. Today, that surplus has dropped to only $8 billion.

Last year, the U.S. imported from China $288 billion in goods – much of it food, toys, vitamins, and dog food. Individual shipments of food from China have recently been reported as going from 82,000 shipments in 2002 to 199,000 in 2006. This led to a trade deficit with China that topped $800 billion last year.

The Food and Product Responsibility Act of 2007 would require that distributors of food and consumer products demonstrate the financial capacity to cover risks associated with recalls and product safety. Specifically, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in conjunction with other agencies, would develop a program to ensure distributors are able to cover the costs associated with both product recalls and all personal and property damages that may occur as a result of a defective product. Distributors would demonstrate that they possess product recall and liability insurance or have sufficient financial resources to afford a recall and any subsequent damage claims. Products covered would include:

Auto parts
Food, drugs, devices, and cosmetics
Biological products
Consumer products
Meat, meat products, poultry, and poultry products, eggs and egg products

In addition, the Brown-Casey Bill would grant the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to authorize recalls of meat, poultry, and egg products and grant the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to authorize recalls for the products it regulates. It would also require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to submit an annual progress report to Congress.

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