A product safety recall issued by Woolworths on a Country Road children clothing item raises serious concerns about the efficiency of testing products before they get to store shelves.
While Woolworths states that it has not received any complaints from consumers, the recall suggests that there is a worrying whole in Woolworths’ systems of testing product safety before they hit the shelves. The fact that the recalled product is for the children market (0 – 24 months) makes this recall even more unpalatable.
Many things can go terribly wrong when unsafe products reach the consumer and worse where children are concerned. On the other hand, business brands can take serious beating from product recalls.
In a statement issued yesterday Woolworths said “Country Road has issued a product safety recall on the Country Road Indigo Elephant crew top, as we were not satisfied with quality of the garment, and in particular its press studs, during routine safety tests. The safety of our customers is our priority. We have therefore, as a cautionary measure, taken the decision to voluntarily remove the garment from our stores.”
The statement added that “To date, 19 units have been sold in South Africa. The recall only applies to the Country Road Elephant Crew, Ages 0 – 24 months, Colour Indigo, Style no. 60197318. All existing stock of this product has been removed from our stores.
“We have not had any customer complaints to date. However, customers who have purchased this product should please return it to either our Country Road or Woolworths stores for a full refund.”
The importance of ensuring consumer product saftey and the extent of lapses is best captured in an interview with an expert in the area. Jutta Knels, Managing Director of the OEKO-TEX® Certiﬁcation Centre, was quoted saying “According to the EU, every tenth item of clothing on sale in Europe is not safe for children. The worst offenders in this hall of shame are products with dangerous fastenings.”
She added that “Textiles containing harmful substances are removed from the market as being unﬁt for sale, while textiles with components which could be swallowed by small children trigger product recalls. At the moment there is no standardised regulation in Europe on the ﬂammability of textiles for children – apart for nightwear. That means that not all the possible sources of danger are covered by official monitoring systems.”
Talking about the danger to children of harmful substances in textiles, the expert is quoted saying “Here the potential danger is not acute. However, harmful substances like allergenic or carcinogenic dyes, formaldehyde and softeners have long term negative effects on children‘s healthy development. Even an inappropriate pH value can be harmful to children‘s delicate skin over a long period, especially in combination with other external inﬂ uences.”