Every day you can read about products that have been recalled because of the harm they caused or had the potential to harm consumers. What you may not know is that those recalled products make up a small percentage of products with safety issues; and that two federal agencies have been working tirelessly to catch millions of unsafe products at the border before they pose a threat to you or those you love.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission(CPSC) has been screening products at ports since the agency began operating in 1973. In 2011, the agency began systematically scoring shipments of consumer products to prioritize shipments with the greatest risk. This risk assessment methodology (RAM) was developed to meet the requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008. Its purpose is to identify products imported into the U.S. that are most likely to violate consumer product safety statutes and regulations.
RAM allows CPSC investigators to analyze data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) about shipments of consumer products arriving at U.S. ports of entry, then make risk-based decisions about which shipments to inspect. It also allows CPSC to recognize low-risk cargo to prevent it from being unnecessarily hindered as it makes its way through the ports. Here is a snapshot of the accomplishments resulting from the collaboration of these two agencies between October 1, 2013 and September 30, 2014 to stop unsafe products before they reached the shelves:
About 28,000 different imported consumer product shipments were screened and checked to determine whether they met federal standards or presented a hazard to consumers. When products are found in violation, they are stopped and put in detention.
Investigators found about 1,600 shipments containing products that were in violation or defective and posed a threat to consumers. Manufacturers are given a chance to correct these products to comply with federal requirements. If they can’t correct them or refuse to do so, the products are not allowed into the U.S
About 1,300 of the 1,600 product shipments stopped were children’s products totaling nearly 4 million individual products. The RAM technology allows CPSC to better identify shipments that may have dangerous or violative products so examinations at the port are focused on keeping unsafe toys out of children’s hands.
Shipments from about 30 countries were found to contain violative or defective products. About 94 percent of the violative shipments came from just 5 countries. The majority of which came from China (79 percent), followed by Mexico (8 percent), Vietnam (3 percent), Hong Kong (2.5 percent) and Pakistan (1.5 percent). Shipments from the other 25 countries accounted for less than 1 percent each of the violative or defective products identified.
In all, more than 4.7 million individual products that violated U.S. safety rules or that were found to be defective were prevented from reaching the hands of consumers. Every time a hazardous product is stopped at a port, it means there could be one less injury to a consumer.
RAM provides protection to everyone associated with imported goods, from importers and manufacturers who make the products available to the retailers who sell the products to families who will purchase and use the products. CPSC has asked Congress to allow the collection of a small user fee to help fund import surveillance operations so that it has additional resources to do even more to keep American families safe.
Visit the Business & Manufacturing area of CPSC’s website for more information about import safety. You can also see a list of products that were found in violation of safety requirements enforced by CPSC and the firms that received letters of advice (LOA) because of those products. LOAs advise the company of the violation and the corrective actions they must take in order for the products to be allowed into the U.S.