Skip Navigation

Fact Sheet

July 1, 2008

Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

Import Safety – Action Plan Update

President Bush established an Interagency Working Group on Import Safety in July 2007 and appointed Secretary 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. The Action Plan 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.

The “Import Safety – Action Plan Update” released July 1, 2008 outlines steps taken by the federal government, private sector and international partners since November 2007 to bolster import safety and also previews plans for the near- and long-term.

The steps detailed in the Action Plan Update exemplify the major shift the U.S. government is making in its approach to import safety. Historically, U.S. authorities have primarily relied on intervening at the border to intercept unsafe goods. The new strategy calls for actively working with trading partners to help ensure they build quality into every step of a product’s life cycle, for targeting critical points where risk is greatest, and for focusing attention and resources on these areas.

The Action Plan Update details the progress made in three key areas: international discussions and agreements; private sector engagement and advancements; and administrative steps, reforms and enforcement actions.

International discussions and agreements

  • In April 2008, President Bush met with Mexican President Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Harper to discuss ideas for increased cooperation and information sharing on food and product safety.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 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. As part of this work, Chinese regulators agreed to intensify efforts to prevent the manufacture and export of unsafe products and to prohibit the use of lead paint in toys exported to the United States. Monthly meetings between CPSC and key Chinese officials are held to coordinate efforts.

  • HHS signed two Memoranda of Agreements (MOAs) with China in December to enhance the safety of a wide variety of food, feed, drugs and medical devices traded between the two nations.

  • The Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agency 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 Food and Drug Administration (FDA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), worked with the Chinese government to facilitate inspections of facilities in China. This process was more efficient due to previous MOAs put in place December 2007.

  • The United States 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, Viet Nam and India.

  • A range of discussions and forums with European counterparts have occurred, ranging from bilateral discussions to participation in international forums.

Private sector engagement and advancements

  • FDA will soon publish draft guidance laying out the general attributes third-party certification programs for FDA-regulated foods and animal feeds should meet in order certification is a reliable reflection that the products are safe and meet applicable FDA requirements.

  • An interagency team is in the process of developing for public comment draft guidance on good importer practices to facilitate compliance with federal laws and regulations.

  • The Toy Industry Association partnered with the American National Standards Institute to create a safety assurance program for toys.

  • The Grocery Manufacturers Association released the Food Supply Chain Handbook in April 2008 to provide companies with examples of successful management practices for suppliers.

  • Twelve private sector trade associations will sponsor an inter-industry product safety summit in Washington including retailers, food, medical products and toy companies to discuss important product safety issues.

Federal government initiatives and information sharing

  • Representatives from U.S. government agencies are regularly meeting to discuss cargo clearance processes; to address safety incidents and emergency situation response; establish the co-location of border officials; develop good importer practices; and share expertise on auditing skills. The sessions include CBP, the Departments of Justice, Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation as well as the CPSC, FDA, EPA.

  • CBP is coordinating to ensure harmonized government procedures and requirements exist in importation. CBP is working towards a shared automated system permitting information gathering and sharing among participating import safety agencies.

  • CPSC established its Import Surveillance Division in early 2008, representing the first permanent, full-time presence of CPSC personnel at key U.S. ports-of-entry.

Enforcement actions

  • The Department of Justice (DOJ) has indicted two Chinese businesses and a U.S. company for their roles in manufacturing and importing tainted ingredients used in pet food. DOJ also recently announced the arrest of two Chicago executives for allegedly conspiring to illegally import honey from China that was falsely identified as coming from other countries.

  • The Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) detected and took action on 156 shipments (2.4 million pounds) of potentially violative meat, poultry, or egg products that had entered U.S. commerce without FSIS inspection.

  • FDA refused admission of 8,543 entry lines that appeared to be adulterated, misbranded, processed under unsanitary conditions, or unapproved new drugs (between November 7, 2007 and May 20, 2008).