OTTAWA (Reuters) - Reacting to a recent series of toy, food and drug recalls, the Canadian government pledged tighter regulations on Monday to try to prevent such problems in the future.
"As we head into the holidays, there's growing concern about the safety of the products on the market, and for good reason," Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a news conference at a Salvation Army toy depot.
"We've all seen the stories in the news -- lead-tainted children's jewelry, tainted toothpaste, toxic toys -- and even worse are some incidents involving food and drugs," he said, mentioning contaminated California spinach and Merck & Co's worldwide recall of the painkiller Vioxx.
Harper said his Conservative government intended to introduce new regulations in the New Year including:
- mandatory product recalls when companies fail to act on safety concerns.
- making importers responsible for the safety of goods they bring into Canada.
- increasing maximum fines to as much as C$1 million ($999,000) from the current C$5,000 under the Food and Drug Act.
- better safety information for consumers and industry.
Health Minister Tony Clement said not one Canadian child or adult had fallen sick in the last six months as the result of unsafe products "but we cannot rest on our laurels."
A Salvation Army spokesman said that among the 80,000 toys the Ottawa depot had received this Christmas season, it had found 200 that were on unsafe product lists.
Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Peter Galloway