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Europe Safer – Shock

Europe is on the front pages most days. Whether it’s that great moment for European democracy, the Eurovision Song Contest, or the slightly more significant prospects of the in-out-shake-it-all-about in referendum, European news is everywhere. It is a reminder to us that while we are technically an island we’re not disconnected. 

One piece of European news is not likely to get the same level of coverage as the Referendum, or even Mans Zelmerlow’s perhaps lucky (just going to say it) victory. 

But it has got us much more excited than much of the other political Euro news. So excited we may have mentioned it here before.

On June 1st Part 3 of Annex II to Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 European Union will have an added section, section 3.3 to be precise, which will make every kitchen in Europe just a bit safer. 

Section 3.3 will ensure that ‘liquid consumer laundry detergents in soluble packaging for single use’, liquitabs as they are known round our place, are packaged in a more resistant and opaque container and, crucially, are much more difficult to bite into. This is because the film must now contain an ‘aversive agent’ that will ‘elicit oral repulsive behaviour within a maximum time of 6 seconds.’ In other words a substance like Bitrex that will have a child spitting out in an instant if they manage to lay their inquisitive little paws on them.

A few short simple (well perhaps not so simple) words in an official document, but the end point of many years of discussions with the industry and with child safety agencies across Europe.  Manufacturers have been at the forefront of the process, keen to see a product that has rapidly grown in popularity with consumers being made as safe as it can be.

The move by the EU follows extensive research by the OECD which uncovered incidents involving children in nearly every member country and which triggered the international agency’s own promotional campaign in 2014 to warn parents of the dangers. 

The new EU regulation is neatly timed for UK Child Safety Week and Bitrex with partners like CAPT will be doing what we can to bring the move to people’s attention. There will be a period of grace while manufacturers change production techniques, but this is a genuine step forward for child safety and one that will affect all 216 million households in Europe. And that’s more people than watch Eurovision.

The OECD’s research on the dangers of liquid-tabs discovered that – 

In the UK there were 1,486 cases between May 2009 and July 2012 - most involving children under the age of 5. That’s slightly more than one case a day for three years.

In France there were 7,500 reports over a longer time-scale - from 2005 to 2013. Again 95% of cases involved children under 6. 

Our closest neighbour, Ireland, with a much smaller population, saw around 200 incidents in 2012 and 2013. 

Countries in Eastern Europe saw smaller numbers of incidents, reflecting less penetration of liquid-tabs in those markets.

But beyond Europe in the United States there were 17,000 incidents across 2012-2013 with 769 cases requiring hospitalisation, and tragically, one fatality. Two thirds of the incidents involved children aged one and two.