Microbiological safety of non-food products: What can we learn from the RAPEX database?
For consumer protection across borders, the European Union has established the rapid alert system for dangerous non-food products (RAPEX), with the overarching goal of preventing or limiting the sale and use of non-food products that present a serious risk for the health and safety of consumers. In our study, we comprehensively analyzed RAPEX notifications associated with products posing a microbiological risk from 2005 through 2017. Additional information was retrieved from national laboratory reports. A total of 243 microbiologically harmful consumer products triggered notifications in 23 out of 31 participating countries. About half of the products were reported by Spain, Germany, and Italy. Notifications mainly included contaminated toys, cosmetics, and chemical products. Depending on the notifying country, measures taken to prevent the spread of dangerous products were predominantly ordered either by public authorities or economic operators. The interval between microbiological diagnosis and the date of RAPEX notifications considerably varied between RAPEX member states, ranging between a few days and 82 weeks. The nature and extent of RAPEX usage substantially differed among member states, calling for harmonization and optimization. Slight modifications to RAPEX could help to systematically record microbiological hazards, which may improve the assessment of potential health risks due to contaminated non-food products.