Brussels, 17 April 2008
The number of dangerous products removed from the EU market rose by 53% in 2007 compared to in 2006, the Commission's annual report on the Rapid Alert System (RAPEX) reveals today. This rise from 1 051 notifications in 2006 to 1 605 last year shows that Member States' surveillance capacities are improving year on year, and that European consumers are better protected today than ever before. Toys were by far the most notified product category in 2007, confirming that child safety is a top-ranking priority for market surveillance authorities, although motor vehicles, electrical goods and cosmetics also featured prominently in the RAPEX system. Once again, China was the country of origin for more than half of all risky products found (700 notifications). This can be partly explained the high number of products imported into the EU from China and the intensified focus of market surveillance authorities on Chinese products following the "summer of recalls" last year. In this light, Commissioner Kuneva presented an update on the extensive work which is being done to strengthen enforcement controls following the recommendations of the Commission's product safety "stocktaking" review last autumn (see IP/07/1746). She also set out plans for major initiatives for 2008, including a upgrading of the current EU-China Memorandum of Understanding and an EU-US-China trilateral product safety summit to be held in Brussels in November 2008.
Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva said: "The summer of recalls prompted a winter of evaluations which has paved the way for a spring and summer of change. Today's RAPEX report shows that more and more products are being detected and destroyed before they can harm EU consumers. Public authorities are clearly stepping up to their responsibilities when it comes to consumer protection. The point of RAPEX and our other safety mechanisms are to ensure that EU citizens can shop in peace, without having to worry about distinguishing safe products from dangerous ones."
A 53% increase in notifications is a positive trend
The number of RAPEX notifications has risen steeply over the last few years and has more than tripled from 468 in 2004 (when a new product safety legislation came into force) to 1 605 in 2007. The steady growth in RAPEX alerts can be ascribed to more effective product safety enforcement by national authorities, greater awareness amongst businesses of their obligations, enhanced cooperation with third countries, and network-building actions coordinated by the Commission.
Gap closing on Member States' performances
The gap between the most frequently notifying countries and those with the lowest number of notifications significantly decreased last year, showing a more even participation in the RAPEX system amongst the the countries involved.
This is confirmed by the fact that the total share of the five most active countries amounted to 61% in 2006, but only 44% in 2007. Germany was the most active Member State in the RAPEX system (163 notifications, approx 12%), followed by Greece (115 notifications, approx 8% ) and Slovakia (114 notifications, approx 8%), Hungary (109 notifications approx 8% and Spain 108 notifications approx 8%) .
Toys and motor vehicles top the list
Toys (417), motor vehicles (197) and electrical appliances (156) alone accounted for more than half of all notifications in 2007. More than one out of three products notified was either a toy or a childcare article, showing the importance that market surveillance authorities place on checking this category.
China still the main source of dangerous goods
The People's Republic China remains the country from which the highest number of products posing a serious risk was detected. This figure should be seen in the context of the fact that a very large proportion of all EU imports come from China (for example, 80% of all toys), and surveillance on Chinese products is tighter than for many other countries. Also, the number of unknown origin notifications through RAPEX fell in 2007 compared to previous years (20% in 2005, 17% in 2006 and 13% in 2007) and it is likely that certain products which had been notified as being of unknown origin before were identified in 2007 as being of the Chinese origin.
The Commission has significantly intensified its cooperation on product safety with China in the last year. In particular, since Commissioner Kuneva first visited China in June 2007, a new system of quarterly reporting on Chinese enforcement actions - to track down at source dangerous goods notified within RAPEX China system - has been put in place. The first trends are positive. The Chinese authorities investigated 184 RAPEX cases between July and September 2007 compared with just 84 cases in the previous 12 months. Corrective actions were taken in 43% of the cases. The quarterly report for September to November 2007 shows that the Chinese authorities sustained the follow-up activity and investigated 89 further notifications from the EU. In addition, it was reported that China made a significant effort to strengthen controls on toys. In a relatively short period, 3540 export licensed manufacturers were audited and, where necessary, were forced to improve their safety control systems. A total of 701 companies lost their export licenses. (see attached Memo for full details of initiatives to strengthen EU-China co-operation in 2007). Commissioner Kuneva will visit China in June 2008, to review progress over the last 12 months and to look at how to step up co-operation.
For more information, see: MEMO/08/252
For photos of some of the dangerous products, see: