Key Issues for National Consumer Protection Week

thumbnail businessIt’s National Consumer Protection Week, so we’re exploring how the federal government protects you, the consumer, from risky products. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is tasked with protecting Americans from unreasonable risks of injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products under its jurisdiction. Our recently launched Key Issues page on consumer product safety explores CPSC’s work and challenges.

Risks of Imported Products

Many consumer products and their components are manufactured in other countries, and are not subject to the same regulations as those manufactured in the United States.

  • Nearly $2 billion worth of consumer products entered U.S. ports every day in 2013.
  • About 4 of 5 consumer product recalls involve imported products.

In 2012, CPSC began piloting a new approach to targeting and identifying unsafe consumer products at 15 major U.S. ports. The new approach evaluates products entering the United States on a predetermined set of rules (i.e., targeting specific hazardous products or importers) to identify imports with the highest risks to consumers.

What Challenges Does CPSC Face?

CPSC has faced significant public scrutiny about its ability to assess product risks, and take appropriate and timely action. We have examined challenges, like how quickly CPSC takes action once it identifies a safety hazard, and explored options to improve CPSC’s timeliness, such as preventive approaches to regulating consumer products.

However, CPSC is not the only agency tasked with ensuring consumer product safety. We found that many federal agencies play a role. To prevent potential safety hazards from going unregulated, we recommended that these agencies develop a more formal coordination mechanism. Learn more in our podcast:


How You Can Track and Help Improve Product Safety

If you have an experience with an unsafe product, you can help CPSC and your fellow consumers by submitting a report on the CPSC website: You can also search for recall notices and other product safety information, and see reports that other people have submitted.

As of October 2014, the site had more than 21,500 incident reports. We examined CPSC’s development of the site, and made several recommendations to assess and improve its usability. CSPC supported our recommendations.


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Podcast on Safety of Imported Food

The Food and Drug Administration’s GAO Podcast IconForeign Offices prevent unsafe products from entering the U.S. food supply. As more food is imported, this office faces increased workloads and other challenges.

Hear our podcast with Alfredo Gomez, a director in GAO’s Natural Resources and Environment team, who led a recent review of FDA’s Foreign Offices and their operations.

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Fiscal Exposures: 5 Sources of Risk that Drive Future Spending

Fiscal Outlook graphicIn tandem with today’s release of our audit of the federal government’s fiscal year 2014 consolidated financial statements, we want to highlight our work on fiscal exposures. This is a term that describes services or expenditures that Americans may expect, but are not fully reflected in the federal budget—such as Social Security, Medicare, and relief after major natural disasters.

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Diversity and Inclusion at GAO

Here at GAO, we are committed to creating a diverse thumbnail_gaoworkforce and an inclusive work environment, which we consider to be an asset to the agency and the federal government as a whole. In December 2014, GAO was named not only one of the best places to work among mid-size agencies, but also received top ranking in that category for our support of diversity.

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Closer Look at a New High Risk Area—Managing Risks and Improving VA Health Care

va1Last week, we issued our 2015 update to our High Risk List. Today, we take a closer look at 1 of the 2 new areas: Managing Risks and Improving VA Health Care.

In the spring and summer of 2014, delays in care at VA medical facilities drew media attention and spurred more than 20 congressional hearings. We have made numerous recommendations to VA to improve the timeliness, cost-effectiveness, quality, and safety of the care it provides to veterans. However, VA has yet to fully implement more than 100 of our recommendations.

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AskGAOLive: Tax Filing and Tax Fraud

webchat_iconWith the tax filing season in full swing, IRS is processing  tax returns and providing a range of related services for tens of millions of taxpayers.

At the same time, fraudsters are busy filing fraudulent returns using legitimate taxpayers’ identifying information to wrongly claim others’ refunds.

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A Closer Look at a New High Risk Area—Management of Federal Information Technology Acquisitions and Operations

High Risk MedallionLast week, we issued our 2015 update to our High Risk List. Today, we take a closer look at 1 of the 2 new areas: Management of IT Acquisitions and Operations.

Big Money, Mixed Results

The federal government spends billions on IT investments. In fiscal year 2015, 27 federal agencies plan to invest about $80 billion in IT, about $40 billion of which will go toward major investments, as shown below.

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GAO’s High Risk List

High Risk MedallionAs an agency, we focus on improving the operations of a large, complex federal government that is responsible for trillions of dollars in spending and revenue collection. In 1990, we started a program to report on government operations that we identified as “high risk” due to their greater vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, or their need for fundamental transformation.

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Talking Turkey on Food Safety

The U.S. food supply is one of the safest in the world, yet the farmCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that each year roughly:

  • 48 million Americans (1 in 6) get sick from foodborne diseases,
  • 128,000 are hospitalized, and
  • 3,000 die.

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Podcast on Federal Efforts Related to Serious Mental Illness

GAO Podcast Icon

The U.S. health care system has a range of federal programs for the millions of Americans with mental illness.

Hear our podcast with Linda Kohn, a director in GAO’s Health Care team, who led a recent review on federal efforts to support individuals with serious mental illness.

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