This was one of many questions explored at a workshop organized in May 2013 by the ISO Committee on consumer policy (ISO/COPOLCO), which focused on how innovation affects product safety and the role standards play in keeping consumers safe.
e-commerce needs a lot of attention
The growing number of purchases made online was one of the areas of concern highlighted by Luke Upchurch, from the consumer advocacy group Consumers International, during his presentation.
Upchurch presented the results of a survey done on consumer protection regulations in 60 countries, and explained that only half have national policies in place. He referred to the results as a 'mixed bag' with some areas, such as e-commerce, needing more attention than others.
Another topic highlighted during the day was product recall. The recently published ISO 10393, Consumer product recall - Guidelines for suppliers, will be particularly helpful to developing countries in improving consumer protection, explained Ratna Devi Nadarajan, Secretary of ISO/TC 240, Project Committee: Product recall, which developed the standard.
The importance of standards to market surveillance was highlighted by Noel Toledo, a consultant specializing in market surveillance and product safety. Toledo talked about the important role standards play in market surveillance but highlighted a need to strengthen the relationship between the market surveillance operators and standards development organizations.
Concluding the workshop, Norma McCormick, Chair of the ISO/COPOLCO, identified a number of areas for concern relating to industrial food production, underlining the need for full traceability of the ingredients going into our food products.
She also highlighted the need to place our expectations on the producers to ensure food safety and not just rely on the consumer to "choose right, cook right, store right".
You can also view the workshop through a photo story.
All the presentations given at this workshop are also available.
More information can be found in the news piece Food products - new challenges for consumer safety