Safety laws for fridges and freezers are not fit for purpose today
Today, Baroness Donaghy will be asking the government what action they propose to take to ensure the safety of consumers.
The WHICH Report on the safety of fridges and freezers should concern us all. Household names manufacturing 250 fridges, freezers and fridge/freezers are on the Don’t Buy list because they failed the rigorous safety standards applied by WHICH – that represents 43% of the market. I am not suggesting that the manufacturers are breaking existing laws. I am saying that those laws are not fit for purpose today.
My main concern is fire safety. However, many of the appliances appearing on the Don’t Buy list also fail on food safety standards. They take too long to chill, which means food will go off more quickly. Some cannot maintain a steady temperature. I am not referring to the energy guzzlers – that is another story.
WHICH tested backing samples from 80 different refrigeration appliances across all brands. It applied an open flame to each sample for thirty seconds. Any appliance which failed the test were put on the Don’t Buy list. Also added were those products which were not tested but which contained the same plastic backing. Anyone who thinks I am a representative of the nanny state should view the WHICH video on the testing procedures.
Another concern among safety experts is the state of the second hand market. Those on a tight budget will often buy their goods from second-hand shops. Because of the decimation of Trading Standards posts in local government, there is no guarantee that these appliances will be safe.
What WHICH calls “flawed current safety standards” will not be replaced until next year. Manufacturers have committed to replacing plastic backing. WHICH will maintain its Don’t Buy list until plastic backed appliances are no longer available in shops.
WHICH is not trying to be alarmist. The organisation accepts that only 8% of domestic fires are caused by unsafe fridges and freezers. We are still awaiting the various reports on the Grenfell fire. Who would have thought only a year ago that this topic would be in the spotlight?
I will be asking the government whether it endorses the WHICH recommendations and what action they propose to take to ensure the safety of consumers during this interim period.
Baroness Donaghy is a Labour member of the House of Lords.