Senator makes safety plea

US senator Dick Durbin urged more stringent inspections of toy imports at the recent Chicago Toy and Game Fair.
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Speaking at the fair, Senator Dick Durbin (pictured) pushed for improved federal inspections of imported toys and pre-emptive lab testing overseas to avoid more recall incidents.

"Most American consumers mistakenly believe that every product on the shelf ... has been inspected, that at some stage the government stepped in, took a look and said it's safe," he said.

"The obvious answer is, that's not true. In the vast majority - overwhelming majority - of cases, there is no direct government safety inspection that ever takes place."

Durbin said the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, the government agency charged with screening a wide variety of goods, has seen its work force reduced from 700 to 400 in the past 15 years. He said only one tester is devoted to examining toys and does it in a rudimentary fashion: by dropping a product from two different height levels.

Among bills introduced in Washington is a measure by Durbin that would boost the commission's funding over the next five years and expedite the agency's regulatory actions. The Senate proposed a $20 fee on freight containers of imports to generate money for the reforms.

Durbin said the federal government could certify labs around the world that would identify problems with foreign-made toys before they are shipped to America.

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