2011 report notes ongoing improvements in EU’s Rapex rapid alert network, which protects European consumers from dangerous products.
In 2011, over 1 800 unsafe products were banned, withdrawn or recalled in the EU – 20% fewer than the year before – according to the report on the Rapex's 2011 activities .
This may have been partially due to budget cuts caused by the economic crisis, limiting national regulators' ability to conduct inspections.
But they responded by targeting products posing the most serious risks to consumer safety. Improved Rapex guidelines also helped them speed up the process of detecting and removing dangerous products.
Clothing, textiles and fashion items made up 27% of the unsafe goods identified through Rapex, followed by toys (21%), vehicles (11%), electrical appliances (8%) and cosmetics (7%).
Spot checks working
National regulators also stepped up coordinated spot checks on a number of items, uncovering an alarming number of safety breaches.
Tests of toys for children under 3 found that 35% did not meet EU safety standards. And 65% of sunbeds were found to emit higher levels of UV radiation than the limit set by the EU – posing a serious health risk to consumers.
New spot checks on childcare articles, fireworks, lawn-mowers and battery chargers are now underway in 19 EU countries.
Safety at source
Use of a separate online alert network for business rose 62% last year, with companies making 133 notifications of unsafe products through this system.
Rapex’s work was also aided by stronger safety rules for toys coming into effect last year. Manufacturers now have to conduct a safety assessment of any new toys before placing them on the market.
The EU will continue working closely with China to reduce the high number of unsafe products the country sends here (goods from China accounted for 54% of notifications in 2011, down from 58% in 2010).
And later this year, the Commission plans to propose measures to further strengthen the EU’s product safety laws and address new, emerging threats.
All EU countries, along with Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, participate in Rapex. It covers most consumer products apart from food and animal feed, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, which are covered by other specific alert systems, similar to Rapex.