A record number of safety alerts were issued by the EU’s early warning system for dangerous products (RAPEX) in 2013, which also saw a marked rise in the proportion of unsafe items from China.
A total of 2,364 safety alerts for non-food items were issued through the RAPEX alert system last year, including unstable bathtubs for babies, collapsing push-chairs, tattoo inks containing banned toxic substances and shoes containing allergenic chemicals.
The system, which ensures that dangerous products are quickly withdrawn from the market or recalled from consumers, operates throughout the 28 EU countries as well as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
The number of warnings issued in 2013 was 3.8% higher than the previous year. The Commission attributes this increase to improved detection and enforcement by national surveillance authorities, rather than a rise in the number of dangerous products being distributed in Europe.
A decade of consumer protection
There has been a steady year-on-year rise in the number of non-compliant products detected through the RAPEX system since it was first launched in 2003, when 200 alerts were issued.
Clothing and children’s toys each accounted for a quarter of the total number of corrective measures in 2013, followed by electrical products (9% of cases), motor vehicles (7%) and cosmetics (4%).
The most common potential risks to consumers were chemical toxicity and risks of strangulation, injury, choking and electrical shock.
At 64%, almost two-thirds of the dangerous items came from China: an increase of 6% since 2012 and 10% since 2011. The EU is working bilaterally with China to improve understanding among producers about product safety standards.
The proportion of dangerous products made in Europe identified by the system has fallen from 27% a decade ago to 15% in 2013.
The largest number of notifications last year were made in Hungary (12% of cases), Germany and Spain (11%), Bulgaria (8%), and the UK (6%).
The Commission is pushing EU countries to adopt legislation that would improve the traceability of products. Currently around 10% of unsafe products sold in Europe cannot be traced to their country of origin or manufacture.
RAPEX national contact points [151 KB]