A panel studying the safety of imports is expected to recommend that the Food and Drug Administration be authorized to order mandatory recalls of unsafe products.
The panel, headed by Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, was created in response to concerns raised about the recent recalls of unsafe toothpaste, dog food and toys.
Currently, the FDA lacks the authority to order a recall of products when problems arise. Instead, the agency works with manufacturers on voluntary recalls.
Often, the government gets a product recalled by warning the company it could face bad publicity if it does not withdraw the item. The new proposal would give the agency far more clout, but Congress would have to approve such a step.
President Bush is expected to receive the panel's recommendations Tuesday.
The panel also will urge increasing the presence of U.S. inspectors from Customs, the Border Patrol, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and other agencies in countries that are major exporters to the United States, an administration official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the recommendations have not been released publicly.
"The report that we're putting forward has 50 different recommendations in 14 categories on how we can make the products that consumers buy safer," Leavitt said Tuesday. Among those recommendations, Leavitt told CBS' The Early Show, was to give agencies more authority to certify that products meet U.S. standards before they arrive in the country.
Other proposals would strengthen CPSC's authority by: making it illegal for companies to knowingly sell a recalled product; authorizing the CPSC to issue follow-up recall announcements; and requiring the companies that are recalling products to report supplier and delivery information.
Another recommendation calls for establishing a certification program — which has been compared to a seal of approval — for companies with a proven track record for meeting safety standards. The Bush administration sees that as a powerful tool because it presumably would make certified suppliers more attractive to big retailers.
In addition, regulators would be able to concentrate on countries and companies that do not have a reputation for meeting certification standards.
"We know there will be more and more imports coming in," Leavitt said. "We know we need to raise our standards, have higher penalties, make certain people are using best practices."
Another proposal calls for focusing resources on riskier products, such as tires.
In addition, the CPSC would be able to impose asset forfeiture penalties for criminal offenses.
The FDA, which is part of the Health and Human Services Department, oversees the regulation of medical devices and more than $1 trillion annually worth of food, drugs, cosmetics, animal feed and other products, which account for 25 cents of every dollar spent each year by Americans.
The CPSC, which oversees the safety of consumer products, has come under fire in recent months after a string of recalls involving lead in toys made in China. Consumer groups and members of Congress have criticized the agency and its head, Nancy Nord, for not acting more quickly to get the items off store shelves. Like the FDA, the CPSC works with industry to arrange voluntary recalls of hazardous products.
Leavitt has likened the finding of unsafe imports to finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press