Problem is acute for Chinese products as investigators unable to pinpoint manufacturers.
Lack of product traceability is undermining Rapex, the EU's rapid alert system for dangerous consumer products, according to a report to be published by the European Commission on 20 April. The problem is acute for Chinese products, the report says, and as a consequence the authorities in China are not able to take action on almost half of the alerts signalled to them.
The report says that Chinese authorities investigated 599 cases of dangerous products exported to the EU market between September 2006 and August 2008, but that 49% of investigations led to no remedial action, “mainly because of the lack of available information about the Chinese manufacturer or exporter”.
The report says: “Identification of the responsible Chinese companies remains the biggest challenge.” Measures in the other cases included halting exports and enhanced supervision.
Serious risk alerts
Rapex is used by national authorities to notify each other of dangerous products and measures that they have taken to restrict their use or sale. Set up in 2004, it covers most consumer products, although food, medical devices and pharmaceuticals are covered by other systems. Products of Chinese origin accounted for half of all Rapex alerts in 2008 involving “serious risks” to health and safety, according to the report.
The Commission report says that one in ten of the alerts sent out by Rapex concerns “products that pose a serious risk and whose country of origin is unknown”. It says that improvements in traceability can be expected from recently adopted EU legislation on product marketing in the EU, but that “significant efforts” are still needed internationally. An EU-China-US trilateral meeting in November agreed to explore co-operation on product traceability systems, it says.
Despite an overall increase in use of the system (there were 1,866 notifications in 2008, an increase of 16% compared to 2007), there are growing disparities across member states in the use of the system, the report shows. The authorities in Germany, Spain, Slovakia, Greece and Hungary made 50% of all notifications in 2008 of products posing a serious risk; the top five countries in 2007 accounted for only 44%. Toys were the product most frequently notified in 2008, accounting for 32% of alerts, followed by electrical appliances (11%) and motor vehicles (10%).