Toxic toys and dodgy engines: Highlighting dangerous products in the EU

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Rapid alert

The European Commission has released its annual report on the 'Rapid Alert System' for dangerous products across 31 European countries. The system aims to provide a way for manufacturers, importers, retailers, experts, and national authorities to identify and report dangerous products as quickly as possible. Pictured is Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality.

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Unmasking hidden threats

Many products for sale across the EU 28, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland are considered dangerous, from risk of injuries, to dangers of fire, chemical contamination or even choking. Toy-related products, such as the mask displayed here, consistently present the most risks. In the 2017 Rapid Alert System report, toys accounted for 29 percent of all product alerts — the most of any category.

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Shoring up the market

The main aim of the system is that when a product for sale is identified as potentially dangerous in one country, other EU states can quickly have access to this information and take appropriate steps to secure their own market. In 2017, there were 2,201 product alerts across the 31 European countries that are part of the system. The most alerts were raised by Germany, with 354.

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Food for thought

The Rapid Alert System deals with non-food products. Food and feed safety issues — one such example being the hotly-contested issue of the use of weed-killer glyphosate (pictured) — are dealt with within the EU by the RASFF (the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed). Both systems work in much the same way, using online portals and databases to exchange information about product alerts.

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Not so cuddly

Despite their seemingly innocent intentions, toys (29 percent) were the most notified category in 2017, followed by motor vehicles (20 percent) and clothing, textiles and fashion items (12 percent). Most dangerous products came from outside the EU, with China — which produces millions of toys (pictured) for the European market, among other things — the number one country of origin (53 percent).

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Feeling the burn

The European Commission cites as an example of good practice by the Rapid Alert System the case of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 mobile phone. After several media reports detailed the product's risk of causing burn injuries, a widespread exchange of information about the product took place across the network and the product was identified as posing a high risk of burns, leading to mass recalls.

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The German obsession

Germany signaled more dangerous products than other country in 2017, 16 percent of the total. Of the 354 alerts raised from Germany, 68 percent related to motor vehicles, a reflection of the importance of that industry. A simple example: a recent alert concerned springs in the starter motors of some Volkswagen cars, with the risk being that the starter motor could overheat and cause fires.

Every day, millions of different things are bought and sold across Europe, but not all are safe for consumers. The European Commission has a "rapid alert system" for blowing the whistle on dodgy products.

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