Commission says EU product safety ‘improving’

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EU product safety standards are improving, according to Consumer Protection Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, who presented the results of a Commission survey yesterday (17 April). But consumer organisations say much more can be done to improve the effectiveness of EU surveillance systems.

53% more dangerous products were removed from the EU market last year than the previous year, reveals the 2007 report on its Rapid Alert System (RAPEX), an increase which shows that “European consumers are better protected today than ever before,” said Commissioner Kuneva. 

But Monique Goyens, the director of EU consumer group BEUC, said that although RAPEX was a “good indicator”, she would only be satisfied “once the laws offer more protection and make manufacturers genuinely responsible for what they put on the market”. 

Last year posed a major challenge for EU toy safety monitors with a number of high-profile product recalls, not least the August withdrawal by US toy giant Mattel of more than 20 million Chinese-made toys due to impermissible levels of lead and choking hazards (EURACTIV 26/09/07). 

Following last summer’s recalls, it came as no surprise to BEUC that toys were by far the most notified product category in the report – closely followed by motor vehicles, electrical goods and cosmetics. Of the 1,605 risky products reported last year, over half (700) were from China, explained by the “high number of products imported into the EU from China” and an “intense focus” on Chinese products following the safety fears, said the Commission. 

But BEUC questioned the Commission’s figures, complaining that “when one notification can represent millions of products, one wonders how many actually slip through the net.” The organisation called for European product safety legislation to be strengthened to put more responsibility on manufacturers. 

Nevertheless, Commissioner Kuneva said the results show RAPEX passed the “test” of 2007 “with flying colours”. She praised public authorities for “clearly stepping up to their responsibilities when it comes to consumer protection” and said the report shows “more and more products are being destroyed before they can harm EU consumers.” 

Commissioner Kuneva also announced plans to “upgrade” the EU-China memorandum of understanding later this year. Meanwhile, Brussels will host a trilateral product safety summit between the EU, US and China in November 2008. 

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