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Tighter controls on unsafe products - 17/11/2008

Collection of small toys on a desk  © EC

EU, US and China announce joint efforts to protect consumers from dangerous goods.

Every week the EU publishes a new list of products that have raised safety concerns. Most of these are made in China but a significant number come from the US and the EU.

The alerts are a reminder that “we must never allow safety issues to slip from the very top of the political agenda”, says consumer commissioner Meglena Kuneva.

In keeping with that commitment, Ms Kuneva kicked off international product safety week by meeting Nancy Nord and Wei Chuanzhong, her product-safety counterparts from the US and China.

Meeting in Brussels on 17 November, they agreed to work together on several fronts – making products easier to trace, improving toy safety standards and sharing more information on safety hazards. They are also planning more joint enforcement, such as simultaneous checks on products being sold on their respective markets.

Ahead of the talks, the EU and China agreed to add more on joint enforcement to their existing agreement on product safety. The revised agreement also gives China access to the EU’s health-warning system for food and animal feed.

The talks marked the first time that EU, US and China have met at such a high level to deal with product safety – a sign of their determination to coordinate closely on ensuring high safety standards. The three trade powers are planning another high-level meeting for 2009.

Last year tens of millions of Chinese-made toys were recalled amid fears they could be dangerous. About 80% of toys sold in the EU come from China.

More recently, Chinese dairy products around the world were recalled or banned after thousands of Chinese children fell ill from drinking milk formula contaminated with the toxic chemical melamine. At least four children died. Pet food, toothpaste, fish and some pharmaceutical products have also sparked safety fears in the recent past.

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