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Attention consumers! ISO standards tackle product safety and recalls

by Elizabeth Gasiorowski Denis on
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Kid playing with toys
A new duo of International Standards for product safety and recall will help reduce the risk of a consumer being injured by unsafe or dangerous products.

As the recent problems with tainted food, drugs, toys and other consumer products have made clear, more needs to be done to protect consumers. How can we make sure that the toys kids play with aren't dangerous? That the coolest new high-tech device won't overheat and catch fire? That the latest wonder cleaner doesn't give off toxic fumes?

Injury statistics in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia indicate that design problems, defects and inadequate safety information for consumer products are associated with many injuries. When incidents occur, the lack of standard product identification and traceability often becomes a limitation for effective corrective action.

The new ISO standards incorporate the expectations of consumers and regulators, and reflect the growing demand for standards in the field of consumer protection, including the need to address overall health or safety risks already during product design and devise a functional process for recalls. These guidance standards will be particularly useful to small and medium-sized organizations to help them better manage their product safety programmes.

The first standard, ISO 10377:2013, Consumer product safety – Guidelines for suppliers, provides universally applicable guidance and practical tools to identify, assess, eliminate or reduce potential safety risks before the products enter the market. Its use should result in fewer injuries and increased consumer confidence, provide an benchmark for accessing international markets, supplement existing regulations, offer a systems approach to product safety, level the playing field, educate suppliers, reduce costly product recalls, and more.

Elizabeth Nielsen, Chair of ISO/PC 243 that developed the new standard, comments: “Such a standard is needed because regulatory authorities and standards writing bodies cannot keep up with the rapid pace of global change in product design, materials and manufacturing processes and thereby ensure that appropriate safety requirements are met.

“Governments that adopt or reference the standard in their regulation will be in a better position to define which products it should apply to, depending on each country’s situation and existing regulation.”

The second standard, ISO 10393:2013, Consumer product recall – Guidelines for suppliers, provides guidance on how to establish, implement and manage a consumer product recall programme.

Only a handful of countries have legislative or regulatory requirements and provide guidance for business on how to manage a recall, leading to an uneven and inconsistent approach to consumer product recall and gaps in consumer protection at the national and international levels.

ISO 10393 will help organizations plan and execute timely and cost-effective recall programmes, minimize legal risks, protect consumers from unsafe or dangerous products, and build customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Dr. Eunsook Moon, Chair of ISO/PC 240 that developed the new standard comments: “By using ISO 10393, retailers and manufacturers will have consistent and repeatable processes for handling product recalls within one or across multiple retail jurisdictions.”

ISO/PC 243 and ISO/PC 240 were established following an initiative from the working group of the ISO Committee on consumer policy (ISO/COPOLCO) which aims to reduce risks related to consumer products.

Overall, some 50 countries took part in the work of ISO/PC 243 and ISO/PC 240, with more than 100 experts from stakeholder groups including industry and consumers.

Miguel Lopera, President & CEO of Global Standards One (GS1), a non-profit organization that develops international specifications for the supply and demand chain, comments: “We welcome this new set of ISO standards that seamlessly interoperate with GS1 standards in many areas including the requirements for globally unique product identification, supply chain traceability and multi-jurisdictional product recall.”