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BgVV: rapid and effective help in the case of poisoning is only possible in conjunction with the product name

04/2001, 30.01.2001

Initiative launched for clear labelling at an exposed point on packaging

Around two-thirds of all cases of poisoning affect children under the age of four. The vast majority of cases happen in the home. There has been a clear increase in the number of poisonings through household products. Rapid and effective help is frequently not possible because the product name is not easily discernable on the packaging of consumer products with elaborate advertising. However the doctor urgently requires the name in order to be able to give specific treatment. Together with the German Institute for Standardisation (DIN), consumer organisations, poison control centres and industry, the Federal Institute for Health Protection of Consumers and Veterinary Medicine (BgVV) has now launched an initiative to make it considerably easier to find this important information on the product. At a first round of talks at BgVV the stakeholders agreed to jointly elaborate a draft to serve as a foundation for a European standard.

In a BgVV study on poisonings through lamp oils, the Institute recorded a total of 138 cases of poisoning since March last year which required hospitalisation. Only in 36 cases (around 26%) was it possible to clearly identify the product. Projected for the Federal Republic of Germany we must expect at least 10,000 cases of poisoning with relevant problems in product identification. Only by means of the correct product name can doctors in the poison control centres find the right formulation in their databases and undertake the necessary treatment. Critical product variations are mainly those on sale under the same commercial names like e.g. cleaning products, ultra cleaning products, rinsing agents or tablets of a brand. They all have different chemical compositions and, therefore, require different measures by the attending doctor. In future, those affected and the attending doctors should be able to locate the product name, article number, address and telephone number of the manufacturer on a clearly visible, coloured point on the packaging directly adjacent to the swipe code. On small packagings a logo will clearly indicate the product name. Uniform labelling of this kind will constitute a decisive improvement in proactive consumer protection. In the event of poisoning it is imperative that product and packaging are kept at hand so that the doctor can obtain information in a rapid and targeted manner. The product and packaging must be taken to the doctor or the clinic and kept there.

The proposal for clear product labelling at an exposed point is part of the current initiative of BgVV to provide the consumer with the relevant data by means of improved and more comprehensive labelling which will enable him to take a mature purchase decision and handle the product safely.


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