French Court Rules on Penalty for Food Contact Product Safety Failure
SAFEGUARDS | Consumer Products NO. 136/17
Products in contact with food must not only assure that released chemicals comply with food safety standards but also that general product safety is achieved. Recent incidents related to pressurized whipped cream dispensers in France show that this is not always the case and the penalties are high.
Recently a French court  awarded more than a million EUR to a young woman because she was seriously injured by the explosion of a pressurized whipped cream dispenser. The importer of the compressed air operated spray container and the insurance group have to accept responsibility for the accident in December 2013, according to the Montauban court ruling. This amount of compensation is unusually high for a French consumer.
At the time of the accident, the consumer suffered severe damage to her skull and a cerebral haemorrhage, and her face was partly disfigured and she had to undergo cosmetic surgery. However, the victim still has serious health issues, so the high sum of EUR 1.09 million is justified: she can no longer work and has lost her sense of taste and smell.
At the end of June, a woman died in France as the result of another explosion of a pressurized cream dispenser. The upper part of the container impacted against her breast. The woman was severely injured and died a short time later.
This court decision is just one of several incidents, including the above mentioned fatality, involving pressurized whipped cream dispensers. Since 2010 , several models of pressurized dispensers have caused serious domestic incidents due to explosion, either when used for the first time or after several years of use. The explosion can generate high-speed shrapnel which can cause severe injuries, including to the hands, thorax or face. In the vast majority of these accidents, the defective devices were made of a plastic head and an aluminum body and purchased between 2010 and 2013.
The Direction Generale de la Concurrence de la Consommation et de la Repression des Fraudes (DGCCRF) has carried out several investigations into the safety of these products. In the event of a proven defect, the DGCCRF has mandated professionals to withdraw products and recall them from consumers, asking professionals to increase the visibility and effectiveness of their recall procedures. Thus, more than 200,000 defective products were identified and the consumers who owned them were asked to bring them back to the seller. An indicative list of references required by the DGCCRF for recall or notification is attached . However, communication by manufacturers and distributors has not been able to reach all of the consumers concerned, as evidenced by subsequent accidents.
Pressurized containers are not the only food contact products affected by product withdrawals. Based on Rapid Exchange of Information System (RAPEX) data and public recalls a German NGO provides further information  on affected products. Some prominent examples are summarized in table below.
|Unsafe product type||Reason for recall|
|Electric water kettle||Risk of electric shock or scalds|
|Breadmaker||Danger to overheat|
|Gas ovens||Risk of detonation|
|Food processors||Defective rotary blades, risk of electric shock or scalds|
|Espresso makers||Danger of explosion under pressure|
Manufacturers of products in food contact (FCM) must not only assure food safety by limited release of chemicals from FCM products but must also consider General Product Safety requirements as well. EU General Product Safety Directive  and Harmonized Standards  will provide further guidance what requirements shall be considered in addition to food safety.
SGS technical experts have extensive knowledge and testing experience in materials and articles in contact with food. They work to ensure that your products meet the appropriate regulations for food contact materials and pave the way for compliance. From overall migration tests to expert advice on emerging regulations and compliance issues as well as documentation reviews, SGS is the partner to trust. Please do not hesitate to contact us for further information or visit our website.
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