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China still biggest producer of unsafe consumer goods

Published on 17/04/2008

17 April 2008

BRUSSELS – Beijing must step up its product safety efforts, European Union commissioner Meglena Kuneva said Thursday, citing figures which show that most of the dangerous consumer goods on sale in the EU – a third of them toys – are made in China.

"While we have made real progress with China, there is a lot more to be done," said Kuneva, who holds the EU’s consumer protection portfolio.

Though the Chinese government "has realized the importance of product safety and of protecting the ‘made in China’ brand," Kuneva warned that "a significant number of sub-prime, non compliant, unsafe consumer goods still reach Europe".

The commissioner was presenting the latest report on the EU’s rapid alert system for dangerous products (RAPEX), set up four years ago to help member states share information about dangerous, non-food consumer products.

The report shows that of the 1,355 notifications RAPEX received in 2007, 52 percent or 700 notifications concerned products made in China.

The number of dangerous goods taken off the market in 2007 went up by 53 percent, proof – Kuneva said – that "fewer dangerous goods are slipping through the net".

The most frequently notified products were toys (31 percent), followed by motor vehicles (15 percent) and electrical appliances (12 percent).

Toy safety has become a major concern in Europe since US manufacturer Mattel was forced to recall millions of toys found to be containing lead paint.

Another recall affected toys with small magnets that could easily detach and pose a serious health hazard to small children if swallowed.

Kuneva said the Chinese authorities had recently revoked 701 licences after auditing more than 3,000 manufacturers, evidence that RAPEX has helped spread a "market-surveillance" culture in China.

The commissioner plans to visit China in June and hopes to sign a memorandum of understanding with Beijing later this year.

[dpa / ANP / Expatica]