Online marketplaces sell unsafe and illegal items
Six consumer groups from the BEUC network tested 250 electrical goods, toys, cosmetics and other products bought from online marketplaces such as Amazon, AliExpress, eBay and Wish. They selected the products based on possible risks and found that 66% of them fail EU safety laws with possible consequences such as electric shock, fire or suffocation.
The products failed safety tests because of a diverse range of issues. These include smoke and carbon monoxide alarms that do not detect smoke or carbon monoxide, toys that contain chemical levels 200 times over the limit and a power bank that melts during testing. In some scenarios this could put consumers in a life-or-death situation.
Although online marketplaces often seem to take down products when informed, they too often reappear1. One of the major problems is that marketplaces do not consider themselves to be liable for the safety of products sold on their platforms and therefore do not seem to sufficiently control the trustworthiness of sellers upfront.
The tests were conducted through the International Consumer Research and Testing (ICRT) network, on behalf of a consortium led by Test Achats/Test Aankoop (Belgium) and which includes Altroconsumo (Italy), Consumentenbond (Netherlands), Forbrugerrådet Tænk (Denmark), Stiftung Warentest (Germany) and Which? (United Kingdom). DECO (Portugal) and OCU (Spain) are also publishing the results.
Products were first submitted to a visual inspection. For some this was enough to declare them unsafe. Take, for example, toys with loose components or hoodies for children with cords that are too long. Most products, such as a plastic doll with a sharp scent, warranted more research. This led products as diverse as jewellery, smoke alarms and Christmas tree lights to be tested in a lab.
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EFSA issues new advice on phosphates in foods
Phosphates are essential nutrients (a form of phosphorus), which are present naturally in the human body and are an essential part of our diet. A group of substances commonly referred to as “phosphates” are authorised as food additives in the European Union.
They are added to a wide range of foods for “technological” functions and appear on labels as "emulsifiers", "antioxidants".
Some of them can and may be used in foods for infants and young children.
First ‘combined’ safe intake for phosphates
a spokesperson said: “The panel has re-assessed the safety of phosphates and derived, for the first time, a group acceptable daily intake [ADI] of 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight [mg/kg bw] per day. “Because phosphates are also nutrients and essential to our diets, in our approach we defined an ADI which considers the likely phosphorus intake from various sources, including natural sources and food additives.”
The ADI corresponds to an intake of 2.8 grams of phosphorus per day for an average adult weighing 70kg.
EFSA stated further: “Importantly, the ADI does not apply to people with moderate to severe reduction in kidney function, which is considered a vulnerable population group. This conclusion is based on the recognised effect of high phosphate intake on the kidney.”
Assessing dietary exposure
Dietary exposure was calculated from the total amount of phosphorus from all dietary sources and not limited to the levels in food additives reported by manufacturers. The experts estimated that food additives indicatively contribute between 6 to 30% of the total average intake of phosphorus.
EFSA: “We estimated that dietary exposure to phosphates may exceed the new ADI for infants, toddlers and children with average consumption of phosphates in their diet. This is also the case for adolescents whose diet is high in phosphates.”
“The data we had did not give rise to safety concerns in infants below 16 weeks of age consuming formula and food for medical purposes containing phosphates.”
Existing maximum permitted levels of these additives in food range from 500 to 20,000 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of food depending on the food type.
EFSA’s scientific advice will inform risk managers in the European Commission and Member States who regulate the safe use of phosphates as food additives in the EU.
Phosphates in food supplements
Currently phosphates as additives in food supplements can be used at "quantum satis" (i.e. as much as technologically needed). EFSA’s experts found that for those above the age of 3 years who take such supplements regularly, estimated dietary exposure may exceed the ADI at levels associated with risks for kidney function.
EFSA: “Based on the exposure assessment, the panel recommends the introduction of numerical maximum permitted levels of phosphates used as additives in food supplements in place of quantum satis.”
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OVER €100 MILLION WORTH OF FAKE FOOD AND DRINKS SEIZED IN LATEST EUROPOL-INTERPOL OPERATION
More than €100 million worth of potentially dangerous food and drinks was seized in the latest Operation OPSON, coordinated by Europol’s Intellectual Property Crime Coordination Centre and INTERPOL. 672 individuals were arrested so far, with investigations ongoing in many countries.
Police, customs, national food regulatory authorities and private sector partners across 78 countries* took part in the five-month OPSON VIII operation which ran from December 2018 through April 2019.
In total, some 16 000 tonnes and 33 million litres of potentially dangerous fake food and drink was seized as a result of more than 67 000 checks carried out at shops, markets, airports, seaports and industrial estates.
Tampered expiry dates on cheese and chicken, controlled medicines added to drink products and meat stored in unsanitary conditions were some of the offenses discovered during the operation.
As in previous Opson operations, illicit alcohol was the most seized item, totaling over 33 000 metric tonnes, followed by cereals and grains (+/- 3 628 metric tonnes) and condiments (+/- 1 136 metric tonnes).
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