China Must Do More Says EU as Unsafe Products Hit Record High

April 20, 2009
EU say 16% increase in unsafe products with 60% coming from China

The European Commission is not satisfied with China's record on dealing with consumer product safety, a commissioner said on April 20, unveiling record high levels of dangerous goods.

The comment came as the EU's executive arm released new figures on dangerous goods, showing that a record number were found throughout the EU last year, with more than half coming from China, in particular hazardous toys.

The commission's rapid alert system for non-food goods, RAPEX, said a total of 1,866 unsafe products were brought to its attention in 2008, a 16% increase on the previous year.

Products from China accounted for 59% of the goods reported, substantially up from 52% in 2007 and 49% in 2006.

In only half of the Chinese cases which came to light, preventive or restrictive measures were carried out to deal with the problem. One of the biggest problems was identifying the responsible Chinese companies involved. "This is not good enough as we stated in 2007," said EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Maglena Kuneva, though admitting that the level of action was much better than in previous years. "It is an improvement (but) no I am not satisfied, and I am working with Chinese authorities " to remedy the problems, she said. "We shouldn't take this as a signal to close our markets. We need good, non-dangerous products from China, but not at the expense of safety," she stressed.

Last November the EU and China signed a deal to improve consumer safety amid the continuing health fears over Chinese products imported into Europe. Under the agreement China is obliged to inform the EU about what it is doing to track down dangerous goods. It also allows for officials from the two sides to carry out coordinated checks on producers to ensure safety standards are being met.

Toys made up almost a third of the dangerous products recalled worldwide. The flood of Chinese-made toys has been a growing concern in recent years, with Mattel recalling more than 21 million such items in 2007 alone.

The next largest sectors for recalls were electrical appliances, which made up 11% of the total cases, motor vehicles (10%) and clothing (9%).

After China, the EU as a bloc was the next largest culprit being resposible for one in five reported hazardous consumer products. Germany alone accounted for 5% of the world total of products deemed to present a risk of physical or chemical injury, choking, electric shock, fire and other hazards.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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