Keeping European Consumers Safe… From “China”

Sunday, April 20, 2008 15:59
Posted in category Uncategorized

The product safety issue has been one that I am consistently a bit sensitive to. If nothing else, it has continually proved itself to be a case where statistics can be used to show anything that an author needs to use them for.

While I am sure you all remember, the basic rundown of last summer’s highlights includes RC2, Mattel, FTS Import/ Export, and several Pet Brands whom imported goods that were dangerous (and potentially deadly) for one reason or another.

Through this time, it has always been my position that the brands themselves needed to invest in a process of ensuring their quality control, and in each case it is clear to me that each of the brands involved had either not invested in any china based QC, had failed to follow their own protocols, and in a couple of cases had not even visited the factories.

the result, again, as you know was a mess.

So, when reading through the BBC report EU warns over ‘risky’ China goods that covered the recently released Keeping European Consumers Safe Report (PDF Here) from the European Union Consumer Affairs (Rapid Alert System for non-food consumer products division), I was reminded of just how biased some reports could be when they fail to properly and completely cut the data.

China is the main source of dangerous goods in Europe, according to a safety report by the European Commission.

That is the first sentence of the BBC report, and after reading the full 28 pages of the EU study I would be hard pressed to disagree. After all 51% of all products that were red flagged were from China…

According to the report, the most frequently notified products (all countries) in 2007 were:

  • toys (417 notifications, approx. 31%),
  • motor vehicles (197 notifications, approx. 15%),
  • electrical appliances (156 notifications, approx. 12%),
  • lighting equipment (84 notifications, approx. 6%),
  • cosmetics (81 notifications, approx. 6%).

79% of all alerts, were:

  • injuries (376 notifications, approx. 23%),
  • choking (251 notifications, approx. 15%),
  • electric shock (246 notifications, approx.15%),
  • fire (216 notifications, approx. 13%),
  • chemical (212 notifications, approx.13%).

As complete, and interesting, as the report is though, it is also a bit misleading in its slant, and this is where I am concern. The core of the slant is that the authors make no effort to accurately define “Made in China” and that readers are lead into believing that these goods were made in China, by Chinese owned factories, to European countries- unassisted – and that at no point was there a party (i.e. Mattel) somewhere in this equation who failed to properly live up to their responsibilities to their own customers by investing in and following quality control procedures.

The report is still heavily biased to relieve the EU, and its companies, of any real responsibility in thse problems.

No doubt, the report has a lot of interesting information, and for me the most interesting thing about the report is that readers will come to understand more about the EU’s consumer safety structure and reporting system – that is important stuff.

However, one of the things I learned from this report, and something perhaps more important to me, is that it is clear that the people in charge of these commissions have still yet to fully understand the core issues surrounding product failures.

They are problems of corporations, and their inability to manage their supply chains.

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