The European Commission’s Annual Report on its Rapid Alert System for Dangerous Products
Background to the Rapid Alert System
In 2003, the European Commission set up a system aimed at preventing or restricting the selling of dangerous non-food products on the market: the ‘Rapid Alert System’. This system allows for the rapid circulation of information about such products among the network of participating countries, by way of alerts and follow-up notices. In 2019, there were 31 participating countries, including the UK. Of note, the scope of the system does not include food, pharmaceutical products or medical devices.
Alerts sent through the Rapid Alert System contain information about the product, the risk it poses and the measures taken by the economic operator or ordered by an authority. The alerts get checked and then published on the ‘Safety Gate’ website; the dedicated public website of the system. Follow-up notices detail actions that participating countries have taken in response to the alerts concerning dangerous products.
The 2019 results
The 2019 Annual Report, published in July 2020, shows that the number of alerts and follow-up actions is growing year on year, with 2,243 alerts and 4,477 follow-up actions in 2019. Overall, the most notified product categories were toys (29% of the total notifications), followed by motor vehicles (23%), clothing, textiles and fashion items (8%), electrical appliances and equipment (8%) and cosmetics (6%). The most notified risks were injuries (27%), chemical (23%), choking (13%), electric shock (10%) and fire (7%). With toys and children’s clothes and shoes being common subjects of alerts, it is clear that authorities place priority on actions to protect children.
The ‘top three’ notified product categories and notified risks differed amongst the participating countries. In the UK, the three most common product categories notified were motor vehicles (35%), toys (24%) and electrical appliances and equipment (21%). The three most common risks notified were injuries (31%), electric shock (22%) and chemical (11%).
Examples of chemical risks detailed within alerts include the presence of phthalates in the plastic of dolls, slime toys containing boron, cosmetic products containing mercury and tattoo inks containing a variety of potentially harmful components.
Extracting your own statistics
The Safety Gate website provides the potentially useful tool of extracting your own statistics; a button labelled ‘Statistics’ can be found on the ‘Weekly Reports’ webpage, which directs you to a specific space where you can extract statistics and produce graphs and Excel sheets according to different criteria.
The coronavirus outbreak
Although not covered in the 2019 report, it is interesting to note that a number of new alerts have been registered since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, including on face masks, coveralls, hand disinfectants and UV lamps (“sanitising wands”). Between 1 March and 1 July, 10 follow-up actions were taken on face masks and one on a hand disinfectant.
Helpfully, the Rapid Alert System allows for specific alerts to be prioritised and processed immediately under certain circumstances. In April 2020 for example, alerts on unsafe face masks were prioritised.
Written by Lara Knight.
 The EU Member States, plus the UK, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
 See pages 13-14 of the 2019 report.
 See page 6 of the 2019 report.