by IISD's SDG Knowledge Hub,

The European Commission (EC) has published its latest report on preventing or restricting the sale of dangerous products on the market. The report shows that authorities took more than 4,400 follow-up actions following alerts exchanged through the EC’s Rapid Alert System, or Safety Gate.

The report titled, Saving Lives Every Day: 2019 Results from the Rapid Alert System for Dangerous Non-food Products, explains that, in 2019, authorities from 31 countries (EU Member States plus the UK, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) exchanged 2,243 alerts on dangerous products, prompting 4,477 follow-up actions (compared to 4050 for 2018). Actions taken included withdrawal or destruction of products by distributors and retailers before they reach consumers and recalling unsafe products. Since the end of 2019, work to protect consumers from dangerous products led to the flagging of an additional 75 products through the Safety Gate Rapid Alert System.

The report identifies toys as the most notified product category (29% of total notifications), followed by motor vehicles (23%), and clothing, textiles and fashion items (8%). Cosmetics, electrical appliances and equipment, and childcare articles and children’s equipment also had high alert numbers. The most notified risks related to: a product causing injuries (27%), such as fractures or concussions; chemical components in products (23%); and choking risks for children (13%).

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 until 1 July, 63 alerts related to face masks. Smaller numbers of alerts related to coveralls, hand disinfectants, and UV sanitizing wands. Between 1 March and 1 July, 10 follow-up actions were taken on facemasks, and one on a hand disinfectant. 

virtual catalogue provides examples of some products notified under the Rapid Alert System. For each entry, it identifies the country, product category, specific product, technical defect and risk, and measure taken. In addition, a Factsheet summarizes the highlights and findings. 

In addition, the Commission published the results of Coordinated Activities on the Safety of Products (CASP), which are organized annually. These efforts led to testing the safety of 652 products, including personal transport devices, soft-filled toys, chargers, batteries, bicycle seats for children, and slime toys. 38% of the products were non-compliant with specific aspects of EU safety legislation, while 11% of products posed serious risks for consumers. Soft-filled toys presented the highest serious risk rates. The product is notified in the Rapid Alert System if a serious risk is determined. Other CASP for 2020 include: risk assessment; online market surveillance; cooperation with customs; injury and accident data collection; and communication campaigns. CASP 2021 priorities are currently being established.

The Rapid Alert System was established in 2003 to enable quick information exchange between countries and the Commission about dangerous non-food products posing a risk to the health and safety of consumers. The System’s website provides weekly updates of alerts submitted by participating national authorities. Specific alerts can be prioritized and processed immediately at arrival, as was done for unsafe facemasks in April 2020. 

The Business Gateway informs national authorities about a potentially unsafe product they have put on the market. The Product Safety Pledge establishes voluntary actions that go beyond what is already established in EU legislation. Seven online marketplaces have already pledged to cooperate with Member States to remove dangerous products from their websites.