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Customs agents seize Chinese toasters at L.A., Long Beach ports

April 19, 2013|By Roger Vincent
  • Customs inspectors found counterfeit UL safety seals on nearly 15,000 toasters coming into local ports in March.
Customs inspectors found counterfeit UL safety seals on nearly 15,000… (U.S. Customs and Border…)

The humble toaster isn’t the first product most people would associate with counterfeiting, but nearly 15,000 of the commonplace kitchen appliances were seized by federal authorities at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles in March.

The generic-looking toasters arrived from China bearing counterfeit Underwriters Laboratories safety markings, the Department of Homeland Security said.

The commonly seen UL seal cannot be secured without the approval of Underwriters Laboratories, an Illinois company founded in 1894. It tests appliances, building materials, lighting and other potentially dangerous products to make sure they meet safety standards.

More than 19 billion consumer items a year get the UL seal advising consumers that products have been deemed safe from electrical shocks or other problems.

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Products bearing counterfeit UL seals, often made in China, have been showing up in the U.S. in recent years. They are typically sold outside of mainstream retail outlets by street vendors, in flea markets and deep discount stores, the Associated Press said.

Underwriters Laboratories has a partnership with U.S. Customs Border and Protection, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, to fight the counterfeiting problem.

The uncertified toasters seized last month in local ports arrived from China in two shipments. They were seized after UL confirmed to customs officials that the safety markings on the toasters were counterfeit.

The combined estimated retail value of the toasters was $297,930, officials said. The wholesale value was $72,600.  The toasters did not bear counterfeit brand names.


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