EU looking to tighten up non-food product safety using labelling

17th April 2014 - Fine Cut
EU looking to tighten up non-food product safety using labelling

For non-food products sold on the single market, members of the European parliament (MEPs) have voted in favour of proposals for obligatory 'made-in' labelling to improve market surveillance and product safety requirements, with sanctions to be put in place for companies that do not comply.

According to the European Parliament, this is in a bid to enhance the protection of members of the public with the European Union (EU), as it would bolster the traceability of items.

The Parliament's rapporteur on product safety Christel Schaldemose commented: "This is a big step forward for transparency in the product supply chain and that is good for consumers."

Punishments for firms that do not comply with the proposed changes would take into account a number of different factors, such as the severity of the breach, the size of the enterprise, whether or not it was deliberate and how long it lasted for.

It was also suggested the Commission should put together a blacklist naming and shaming companies that are found guilty of non-compliance on numerous occasions.

What would the new labelling consist of?

Official reports suggest the proposed new system would affect "almost all goods sold on the internal market", except for those governed by their own unique set of rules, such as pharmaceutical products, like medicines.

While the proposed labelling would be mandatory, manufacturers would still have some degree of choice. For example, should their item be manufactured in the EU, they would be able to decide whether to make out the label to this effect or to name a specific country within the bloc.

In instances where a product comes together across more than one location, the EU Customs Code stipulates its origin should be named as the place where it was subject to "the last substantial, economically justified processing", bringing about a "new product" or comprising "an important stage of manufacture".

Why is an overhaul needed?

Currently, it is only voluntary for firms to include this information. However, it is thought the system needs to be overhauled as only around one in ten products picked up by the EU's RAPEX alert system can be traced back to where it was produced.

The system was established in order to improve the flow of information between EU member states and the Commission about steps being taken in order to hinder - or ideally stop - the marketing and use of consumer goods that pose a health and safety risk, excluding items being governed by their own rules, as spoken about earlier, such as food. 

Every Friday, the Commission releases a list of those it believes pose a risk, which gives information about the product, what problem it presents and what steps are being taken to notify any countries in which it has been identified as a threat.

With around ten per cent of items picked up the system unable to be traced back to their manufacturer, MEPs have recognised such a flaw in the system needs addressing.

Parliament's rapporteur on the market surveillance regulation Sirpa Pietikainen added: "This legislation is a major step towards more powerful, coordinated and risk-based pan-European surveillance. Better surveillance means safer products for European citizens."

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