New Report Outlines Progress Made on Import Safety

July 9, 2008
BioPharm International Editors

Significant improvement has been made since last year to enhance the safety of imported products, according to a new report released by the interagency working group on import safety.

Significant improvement has been made since last year to enhance the safety of imported products, according to a new report released by the interagency working group on import safety. Entitled the “Import Safety-Action Plan Update,” the report outlines steps taken by the federal government, private sector, and international partners to bolster import safety over the last eight months.

President Bush established an interagency working group on import safety in July 2007 and appointed Secretary Mike Leavitt as chairperson. The President charged the working group with conducting a comprehensive, government-wide review to identify actions and appropriate steps to promote the safety of imported products. In November 2007, the working group completed the “Action Plan for Import Safety,” a national strategy based on the principles of prevention, intervention, and response. It contains 14 broad recommendations and 50 specific short- and long-term action steps to better protect consumers and enhance the safety of the increasing volume of imports entering the United States.

According to the report, since November 2007, there have been strong enforcement actions, signed agreements with key trading partners, bilateral and multilateral discussions, critical information shared on safety and best practices, and a process begun to improve safety practices both inside and outside of government.

The accomplishments include:

  • The Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agency is coordinating to ensure harmonized government procedures and requirements exist in importation. CBP is working toward a shared automated system permitting information gathering and sharing among participating import safety agencies.

  • HHS signed and has begun to implement landmark Memoranda of Agreement with China to enhance the safety of a wide variety of food, feed, drugs, and medical devices traded between the two nations.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency signed an agreement with China to protect human health and the environment in the field of imported and exported products.

  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has a Memorandum of Understanding with China and implemented agreements in key consumer product categories.

  • CBP and CPSC are working with the private sector to explore including an import safety component in CBP’s Importer Self-Assessment Program.

  • Discovering an increase in adverse reactions to heparin, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) linked the contaminant to Chinese suppliers and has worked with the Chinese government subsequently to improve testing. This process was more efficient due to two previous Memoranda of Agreement that were put in place last December to enhance the safety of a wide variety of food, feed, drugs, and medical devices traded between the two nations.

  • The US government (HHS, USDA, and the Department of Commerce) participated in a forum with Central American countries to discuss ways to ensure the safety of manufactured goods and foods as they move between countries. Similar discussions have occurred with the leaders of other countries, including China, Vietnam, and India.

Administration officials will continue to work with Congress to seek enactment of the recommendations from the November 2007 action plan requiring legislation.

Information on efforts to improve import safety and the report are available at www.importsafety.gov.