Safety of Some Foreign Products Questioned
A "surge in foreign imports" of products such as herbal medicines and candy "has made it increasingly challenging for U.S. food, health and customs officials to check the safety of all products entering the country," the AP/Newark Star-Ledger reports.
Almost all shipments from abroad undergo automated tests in which computers scan cargo invoices for products with possible safety risks. However, only about 75,000 shipments are tested and sampled annually, according to FDA spokesperson Michael Herndon.
A number of "undocumented products" also enter the U.S. daily in trucks, luggage, mail or car trunks, according to the AP/Star-Ledger.
For example, New York City health officials last year found herbal medicine on sale at a store in Queens, an area with many immigrants, that contained 2,190 times the amount of mercury considered safe by the Institute of Medicine.
In addition, California health officials have "struggled for years" with the sale of Mexican candies that are contaminated with lead, the AP/Star-Ledger reports.
Leticia Ayala of the Environmental Health Coalition, said, "What we found out was that the FDA didn't have the capacity to deal with this huge issue. Most of the things that come across the border aren't being tested. So we can't rely on the federal government to protect us at the border" (Caruso, AP/Newark Star-Ledger, 3/20).