The creation of a new government panel by itself won't protect us from hazardous products

We shouldn't have to worry about poison when brushing our teeth, or feeding our dog, or giving our toddler a toy. That's the idea behind a Cabinet-level committee that President Bush formed last week to come up with ways to protect Americans from bad imported products. It's going to take more than another government panel, however, to calm our nerves about toxic toothpaste and other health-threatening goods coming in from China. Before consumers can rest easier, and feel less vulnerable, we need to see federal agencies given the authority to order tainted food off store shelves. As it is, the FDA and USDA can only request food producers to recall it. (Even when their requests are met, very little of the bad food is recovered.)

We also need to see more federal money go toward inspection programs. Imports of Chinese products into the United States are increasing at a dramatic rate. China seems ill-equipped to police itself, and our inspectors are having trouble keeping up. If Bush's new Working Group on Import Safety thinks changes can be made using "existing resources," it is doomed to fail.

As we well know from the recent spinach scare and the sickening of people in 19 states by the Veggie Booty snack food, domestic foods need to be rigorously inspected and controlled, too.

Chicago Sun-Times