Annual Inspection Report shows efficiency of EU’s cooperation on dangerous products

Brussels April 15 2010 – The number of dangerous consumer products notified through the EU’s rapid alert system for non-food dangerous products (“RAPEX”) rose by 7% in 2009 compared to 2008, the Commission’s annual RAPEX report shows today. This rise from 1866 notifications in 2008 to 1993 last year shows that the capacity of the RAPEX system has increased again in 2009, following more effective market surveillance by Member States. European businesses are also taking their responsibilities in the consumer product safety area more seriously and recall their unsafe products from the market more readily. They also begin to use the dedicated rapid alert system for business (‘Business Application’) more systematically. Toys, clothing and motor vehicles were the most frequently notified products in 2009. In addition, the results of an EU market surveillance exercise, involving 13 countries checking the safety of toys, were also presented today, and show that around 20% did not comply with the relevant safety requirements.

John Dalli, Commissioner in charge of Health & Consumer Policy said: “This report serves as our annual reality check of the safety of products on the EU market for EU citizens. Safety is of critical personal relevance to Member States, and in the past six years RAPEX has become an example of the effectiveness of EU cooperation in this area”.

The number of notified dangerous products is still growing

The total number of notifications distributed through the RAPEX system has risen gradually since 2004 (when the General Product Safety Directive, was transposed into the national laws by Member States). In this sixth year, the number of notifications has more than quadrupled from 468 (in 2004) to 1993 (in 2009). In 2009, the number of notifications rose by 7% compared to 2008.

The growth in RAPEX notifications, and the increased capacity of the system, is a result of:

  • more effective product safety enforcement by national authorities;
  • more efficient investment of resources;
  • greater awareness among businesses of their obligations;
  • enhanced cooperation with third countries;
  • network-building actions and training across Member States coordinated by the European Commission.

As regards the countries of origin, the number of notifications on products from China sent through RAPEX showed a slow increase (of 1%, from 59% in 2008 to 60% in 2009. There was a decrease in the number of notifications which did not contain information about the country of origin of the notified product.

All countries contribute to RAPEX

All EU countries participated in the RAPEX system by detecting and notifying new dangerous products and ensuring appropriate follow-up actions to the information received. Half of the countries further increased their activities in the system and notified more dangerous products than in 2008. The countries making most notifications were Spain (220 notifications), Germany (187 notifications), Greece (154 notifications), Bulgaria (122 notifications) and Hungary (119 notifications). Notifications sent by these countries represent 47% of all notifications on products posing a serious risk sent via the system.

Toys, clothing, textiles and motor vehicles top the list

Toys (472 notifications), clothing and textiles (395 notifications) and motor vehicles (146 notifications) accounted for 60% of all notifications on products posing a serious risk in 2009. Electrical appliances (138 notifications) became the fourth most frequently notified category of product.

Results of the EU market surveillance check on toy safety

In 2009, market surveillance authorities in 131 countries conducted a specific check on toy safety. They inspected over 14.000 toys for compliance with relevant safety legislation. The inspections took place mainly at importers and retailers, with customs checking 160 incoming shipments of toys.

Of the inspected toys, 803 samples were sent to a laboratory for tests on mechanical safety aspects (576 samples) and heavy metal content (227 samples). 200 samples failed the mechanical tests, while only 17 samples failed the heavy metal requirements. This resulted in many RAPEX notifications and corrective actions were taken by the national authorities against the unsafe toys found.

The main aim of the project (co-ordinated by PROSAFE, the EU network of surveillance authorities2) was to reduce the amount of unsafe toys on the EU market. It also enabled Member States to gain experience in working together for better surveillance and enforcement of the safety rules. National authorities will intensify their work to ensure compliance with the relevant safety requirements and to inform and educate economic operators and consumers.

For more information, please see:

1: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Slovak Republic, The Netherlands

2: Product Safety Enforcement Forum of Europe is a non-profit organisation established by market surveillance officers from various countries throughout Europe and supported by the European Commission – it aims to enhance market surveillance through best practice.