Product safety higher up consumer protection agenda, urges TSI
Product safety needs to be given a much higher priority by the Government to protect consumers, the Chief Executive of the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) urged today (Monday).
A number of high profile product recalls of unsafe toys, allied to the 'alarming' findings of a test purchase of unbranded electrical chargers, demonstrate the urgent need for action.
Ron Gainsford, TSI chief executive, 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.
His comments came at the launch of National Consumer Week, (12-16 November) a TSI-led annual initiative which aims to raise consumer awareness and highlight key issues of concern, and which this year focuses on the theme: 'Buying from Afar? Know What Your Rights Are!'
TSI has previously alerted Consumer Affairs Minister Gareth Thomas to its concerns and will take the opportunity at today's (Mon) launch at the Office of Fair Trading in London to stress again the need for action.
TSI's recommendations include:
- Product safety testing and enforcement to be given increased priority 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 and supported by all at national Government to undertake comprehensive audits relating to product safety.
- 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).
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 therefore they have adequate resources and support from central government to make sure they can continue to provide this service.'
This summer manufacturer Mattel recalled millions of Chinese-made toys amid concerns over toxic lead in paint and the use of small magnets, a potential choking hazard.
On Friday Character Options Ltd, a UK importer, voluntarily recalled its Chinese-made Bindeez Toy range, on sale at outlets including Woolworths, ToysRUs and Asda, after discovering that the beads of the product, when swallowed, can have the same effect as the 'date-rape' drug GHB.
And in a test purchasing exercise carried out by Hertfordshire trading standards officers in September, seven out of 21 electrical chargers and adaptors, purchased through a UK online auction site but imported from the Far East, were found to be potentially deadly, with another eight failing to meet basic Euro quality standards.
A faulty, counterfeit games console charger purchased in Thailand was responsible for the death of a 7-year-old boy from London last December. Connor O'Keeffe was electrocuted during a family holiday.
His family have urged consumers to heed warnings and only buy electrical products from reputable outlets.
'I am concerned that these cases represent the tip of the iceberg,' added Mr Gainsford.
For more information about National Consumer Week or the contents of this press release, please contact the TSI press officeon 0845 608 9430.
A full press pack, including case studies, will be available at the launch of National Consumer Week, taking place on Monday November 12 2007 at the Office of Fair Trading, Fleetbank House, 2-6 Salisbury Square, London, EC4Y 8JX, from 10am to noon. Senior representatives of TSI, Consumer Direct and the OFT will be joined by consumer affairs minister Gareth Thomas and local authority trading standards officers at the event, which will be followed by the TSI media awards presentations. Journalists and broadcasters are welcome to attend - please notify the press office of your requirements.A press release warning about the safety of electrical chargers bought online is issued separately. Contact the Trading Standards Institute press office on 0845 608 9430, or email
Product Recall, Bindeez Toys: On Thursday (Nov 8) Character Options Ltd voluntarily recalled its Bindeez Toy range with immediate effect. The withdrawal follows worldwide notification by safety authorities in Australia and New Zealand that the beads of the product, when swallowed, can have the same effect as the 'date rape' drug GHB.
Parents are advised to take the products away from children until further information is known. They should be kept out of reach. Bindeez are a craft toy consisting of beads that can be made into patterns when sprayed with water. They are sold at many major UK toy stores including Woolworths, Toys 'R' Us, Toymaster, Asda and others. The toys are manufactured in China. Trading Standards made immediate contact with the importer to the UK, Character Options Ltd, based at Lees Brook Mill, Lees, Oldham, who had already taken action to withdraw the product from stores. Urgent tests are now being undertaken to ascertain if UK stocks are affected by the contamination.
Thursday's edition of the New Zealand Herald reported that the product, which contains the chemical 1,4-Butanediol - a type of industrial solvent, can turn into a drug variously known as liquid fantasy or liquid ecstasy when swallowed. This can cause unconsciousness and sickness, but is not life threatening in small doses. Two children in New Zealand are reported to have required hospital treatment after swallowing the beads. There are no known cases of children in the UK requiring treatment after swallowing these beads.Consumers with concerns about the products should return them to the store from where they were purchased. Alternatively, parents can call 0161 633 9808, a help line set up by the company. Consumers can also call Consumer Direct for advice on 08454 04 05 06.
China-Made Products – Background Information
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. 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. It outlines 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.