EU critical of China's approach to dangerous products
China remained head of the list of countries producing dangerous non-food consumer products found on the EU market in 2008, with Brussels expressing dissatisfaction at Bejing's handling of the problem.
The EU's rapid alert system,"RAPEX" – designed to share information between member states and the commission on dangerous products – shows that 59 percent of notifications in 2008 were for products of Chinese origin, up from 52 percent in 2007.
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EU consumer affairs commissioner Meglena Kuneva said on Monday (20 April) that the Chinese authorities were taking a more active approach to tackle the concerns, having managed to investigate roughly half of the non-food products identified as dangerous, but said that this was not enough.
"It is not satisfactory but it is better than before," she said, pointing out that in 2007 the percentage of dangerous products inspected by Chinese authorities was close to zero.
"No, I am not satisfied and I am working with the Chinese authorities and also with the toys industry," she added. "They [China] are doing their best to have well-staffed market authorities."
The total number of non-food products notified as being dangerous through RAPEX – which is also used by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway - in 2008 reached 1,866, a 16 percent increase on 2007.
Toys make up the single largest component of this figure, with 32 percent of the total, followed by electrical appliances on 11 percent, motor vehicles on 10 percent and "clothing, textile and fashion" items on 9 percent.
The countries making the most notifications were Germany with 13 percent, Spain with 11 percent and Slovakia with 9 percent. Romania and Luxembourg on the other hand made no notifications in 2008.
EU products also at fault
An array of melted kettles, dangerous teddy-bears and children's bicycles were on display for journalists at the launch of the annual RAPEX report on Monday as examples of the apparently innocuous items that injure EU citizens every year.
Despite the high level of attention placed on products of Chinese origin, 20 percent of the non-food products identified as dangerous through RAPEX in 2008 actually originated from within the EU itself.
Ms Kuneva used the example of the Dutch electrical producer Philips who in 2008 recalled 7.2 million coffee machines from the market due to company concerns they could burn users.
"We should praise Philips because they took very responsible behaviour in recalling from the market these dangerous products," said Ms Kuneva, adding that self-assessment and rapid action by companies was the ideal solution.