The European Union said Tuesday it will ask China to be much more vigilant about product safety, requesting that officials there follow up on cases and report back to the EU about what measures are being taken.
EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva will make the request next week during a visit to China, her spokeswoman Helen Kearns said Tuesday.
But Kearns said Kuneva’s visit was not prompted solely by recent cases such as tainted toothpaste found in Spain but was part of a longer-term effort to deal with safety problems.
“China has been a priority for the last year or two,” she said. “For every rapid alert on the European market, there should be an appropriate follow up on the Chinese side.”
The U.S. and other countries have cracked down on Chinese products since the Food and Drug Administration found in April that North American dogs and cats had been poisoned by tainted Chinese pet food ingredients. Since then, a growing number of Chinese products have been found to contain potentially toxic chemicals and other adulterants.
Chinese officials have accused foreign media of raising unnecessary alarm about the safety of the country’s food and drug exports, complaining in particular about U.S. reports.
The European Union wants to see China follow up every product safety alert flagged up by European authorities and report back every three months on what it is doing to deal with the problem.
Close to half of all problem consumer products – excluding food – came from China last year, the EU said. Officials said this reflects China’s dominance as a supplier of toys, small electronics and lighting and overall trade flows since over a quarter of all goods the EU imports are from China.
More than a half of all toys sold in Europe come from China and the EU has been working specifically to increase toy safety with Chinese authorities and manufacturers by offering training to explain what the EU is looking for.
Last week, two brands of toothpaste made in China and sold in Spain were withdrawn from stores because they contained diethylene glycol, or DEG, a substance used in antifreeze. Similar toothpaste was found in a number of Central American countries earlier this year.
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