TSI calls for action to restore consumer confidence on product safety
The Trading Standards Institute (TSI) today called for new Government-led measures to restore consumer confidence, after a series of high-profile product safety alerts.
The call for action follows last week's recall of millions of Chinese-made toys by manufacturer Mattel, amid fears over toxic lead in paint and the use of small magnets - a potential choking hazard.
There have since been fresh concerns over the safety of lead in children's jewellery on sale, and about dangerous chemical levels in some clothing produced in China.
Bryan Lewin, Chairman of TSI, said: 'The recent safety alerts remind us of the fact that there is room for improvement in our monitoring of products which are either made here or are imported into the UK from abroad, particularly from the burgeoning Far Eastern markets.'
TSI is writing to the new Consumer Affairs Minister, Gareth Thomas, ahead of a scheduled meeting in October, with the following recommendations:
- A review of the use of the famous CE mark - commonly interpreted as a declaration that a product meets strict European safety standards but which, in the case of toys and electrical equipment, is, in fact, a self-declaration of safety by the manufacturers. (Other consumer products, including gas appliances and personal protection equipment, can only carry the CE Mark after being tested and/or accredited by an independent organisation.)
- Product safety testing and enforcement to be given an increased priority rating by national Government, so encouraging local authorities to put resources into this area of their work.
- Promote a national sampling and testing programme for products, backed by adequate funding, and collate the details on a central database.
- Re-introduce a Government-funded central database listing details of incidents and injuries occurring in the home and outside (these databases were maintained centrally until 2001/02).
- Ensure that local authority Trading Standards Services that have a global consumer product company in their area are adequately funded to undertake comprehensive audits relating to product safety.
Mr Lewin said: 'In the recent Rogers Review - a Government commissioned review of local authority regulatory priorities - product safety was not named as one of the six national enforcement priorities. Instead, local councils were encouraged to concentrate on other community safety areas, including doorstep selling, scams, alcohol licensing, food safety and rogue traders.
'All of these issues are vitally important to the health and well-being of our communities, but it is crucial that product safety is also on the agenda,' he added.
Cllr Geoffrey Theobald OBE, Chairman of LACORS, said: 'The safety of products destined for vulnerable consumers such as children must be paramount, and it is vital that all consumers can be assured that goods are safe and fit for purpose.
'Councils carry out a hugely important role in monitoring goods and making sure they comply with product safety standards. It is essential that councils have adequate resources and support from central government to make sure they can continue to provide this service.'
Products involved in the Mattel recall were all made in China, as were a range of Christmas tree lights recalled last winter due to safety fears.
David Hawtin, Director General for the British Toy and Hobby Association said: 'The British Toy & Hobby Association shares consumers' concerns about the recent recall of toys containing lead paint and toys which might release small parts in the form of magnets. Product recalls are an essential precaution necessary to protect children from safety hazards.
'Consumers who are worried about the safety of any of the toys involved in the recalls should first inspect them for any signs of damage and if still uncertain take the toys away from the child.
'The recent recalls are related to specific toys and specific companies and do not reflect the fundamental safety of other toys on retailer shelves.
'Consumers should continue to buy toys from reputable dealers and make sure they read and follow any warnings or safety messages such as 'not suitable for children under 36 months'.'
The European Commission has been working with the Chinese Government in recent years to highlight safety issues, amid concerns that the number of products originating in China which warrant enforcement action, recall or withdrawal is rising annually.
For more information, please contact TSI Press Office on 0845 608 9430.
For background information:
Last year some 48% (or 440) of products notified to the EU as potentially dangerous had originated in China. The EU maintains RAPEX - a Rapid Exchange database used by national authorities to notify other users about a potential safety issue involving a product.
The EU and China have since signed an agreement to establish better communication and collaboration on product safety and to support the Chinese authorities in their quest to improve safety.
In September 2006 a 'Roadmap' for safer toys was agreed, aiming to ensure toys exported from China are safe and outlining a strategy for improving the safety of toys made in China. It is supported by the European and Chinese toy manufacturers' associations, includes practical measures for training and technical assistance and contains a commitment from the Chinese authorities to strengthen inspection and supervision regimes on toys destined for Europe.
Under the draft Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Bill, the newly created Local Better Regulation Office will have a specific responsibility for supporting primary authorities, including making grants.
Notes to Editors
Trading Standards InstituteThe Trading Standards Institute has represented the interests of Trading Standards professionals for 120 years. We have a long and proud history of ensuring that the views of our members are well represented at the highest level of government, both nationally and internationally.
Our aim is to promote excellence and enhance the professionalism of our members in support of empowering and informing consumers, encouraging and working with honest businesses, targeting rogue traders and rogue trading practices and contributing to the health, welfare and wellbeing of citizens and communities.
TSI members are engaged in delivering frontline Trading Standards Services in local authorities in response to 2 million consumer and business complaints and enquiries each year. They also support the delivery of new initiatives such as Consumer Direct, providing first point of contact practical consumer advice.
They also work in the business, consumer and central government sectors in promoting and influencing the safety, prosperity and enhancement of individuals and markets with a dependency on effective and professional Trading Standards contributions and interventions.
Consumer Direct - 08454 04 05 06
Consumer Direct is a Government-backed telephone and online consumer advice service which works in partnership with Local Authority Trading Standards. It provides clear, practical and impartial advice and information to help consumers resolve problems and disagreements with suppliers of goods and services. Consumer Direct is available from 0800-1830 Monday to Friday, and 0900-1300 Saturday, excluding bank and public holidays.
Calls cost a maximum of 4 pence per minute from a BT landline. Calls from mobiles or other networks may vary. Your service provider may charge a minimum cost per call. The advice and information given is free.
LACORS (Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services) is the local government central body responsible for overseeing local authority regulatory and related services. These services range from protecting consumers against illegal doorstop selling, to checking hygiene standards in restaurants and food factories, to alcohol and public entertainment licensing.