The safety of consumer products entering our country is always a high national priority, and events in the recent months - involving tainted food and toys and other merchandise containing dangerous levels of lead - have shown the need for increased vigilance of the products that cross our borders.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission are the two federal agencies primarily responsible for informing and protecting the public from the risk of injury or death from foods and medicines, and consumer products, respectively.

With the large quantity of products manufactured both domestically and imported into the U.S. from other nations, this is an enormous charge, and it is important to maintain the appropriate funding and staff levels to give them the tools they need.

Eighty percent of the toys Americans buy are imported from China, and last year, more than 20 million toys manufactured in China were recalled due to lead paint and other hazards. To view recall announcements and product safety news, please visit the following Web site: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prerel.html.

My colleagues in Congress and I are committed to ensuring that the products our children use and the foods we eat are safe and reliable. In recent months the House of Representatives has passed legislation to protect consumers, such as H.R. 2474 to increase the civil penalties for violations of the Consumer Product Safety Act; H.R. 1699 to mandate product registration for nursery items; and, the Fiscal Year 2008 Financial Services Appropriations bill to increase funding for the CPSC.

I feel the CPSC needs new leadership to make changes that will render the commission more effective in protecting American families. There are serious problems with the current screening system, and resolving these gaps quickly and firmly is critical in maintaining the safety of our family members.

Our families' safety and security is of the utmost importance, and we must work harder to ensure the safety of goods entering our country.

I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress, to improve the process of screening and testing for unsafe products.

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U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi, represents South Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives. Readers may contact him at (202) 225-7742.