Lawmaker: China still not vigilant enough
BEIJING -- China needs to effectively address its product safety problems, a US lawmaker said yesterday as the country launched a campaign to weed out unqualified manufacturers amid a global recall of Chinese-made toys.
Toys are on a growing list of Chinese exports that have been found to contain high levels of chemicals and toxins, triggering worldwide concern and numerous recalls of goods ranging from toothpaste to pet food ingredients.
"This is a very real problem," said Democratic Representative Rick Larsen of Washington state, who was on a weeklong visit to China. "It's visceral. It's about your child, and it's about your pet, and it's about food on the table."
Larsen and Representative Mark Kirk, Republican of Illinois, cochair the US-China Working Group, which is focusing on the expansion of export opportunities to China for small- and medium-size US businesses.
They met yesterday with officials from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine. Larsen said the Chinese officials said they recognized there was a problem and that it is being fixed.
Kirk has introduced the bipartisan Import Safety Act of 2007, which would increase penalties against importers of contaminated goods by 100 times. Food and toy violations resulting in death would now mean fines of $50 million instead of $500,000.
Larsen urged US importers to get more involved in the process. He said their businesses could suffer, especially around Christmas "if the American public does get to the point where they are . . . specifically looking for products that are not made in China."
The legislation also would provide funding to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Food and Drug Administration for overseas inspections of processed foods and toothpaste.
China's crackdown on toy makers comes two weeks after
"An examination will be conducted across the country on licensed Chinese toy producers and exporters to clear out those unqualified ones," the quality administration said on its website.
It is part of a four-month program aimed at improving overall quality -- from food to drugs to consumer products -- as China fights to shore up its reputation.
While Chinese officials have promised stricter supervision of the toy industry, they have also blamed what they say are varying global quality standards and faulty US designs.
Li Changjiang, who heads the quality watchdog, said the recalled toys made up a small part of the 22 billion toys exported from China last year.