n online consumer-protection warning system now exists, in which 13 million consumers in the 14 Caricom member states can alert authorities to dangerous products on the market.
Food, which is monitored by the Suriname-based Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA), is however exempted from that list.
Dubbed the Caricom Rapid Exchange System for Dangerous Non-food Consumer Goods (CARREX), the system was created in response to calls by consumer groups for stronger region wide market surveillance for unsafe consumer goods, a Caricom official said.
The initiative is being rolled out across the member states following a series of consultations in each member state.
Antigua & Barbuda’s leg of the consultation opened yesterday at the City View Hotel.
Deputy Programme Manager with the Caricom Single Market & Economy (CSME) Unit, Philip McClauren, said the aim of the consultations is to give full effect to CARREX across the member states.
“One of the main objectives is to raise public awareness through national consultations with all stakeholders and sharing information through the media, so that nationals in Caricom will become fully sensitised and better informed about the CARREX,” McClauren said.
He said the initiative would operate similarly to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which has the mandate of safeguarding the interest of American consumers.
“The CARREX must be seen as a system that will act in the interest of consumers in the Community, regardless of the origin of the dangerous goods, once they are present in the CSME [Caricom Single Market and Economy] and the Community by extension.
In that regard, the CARREX must be the system to raise the alarm bells so that regional consumers can be duly warned and that national authorities can take appropriate action,” he said.
“It is anticipated that by design the CARREX will act in the interests of regional consumers regardless of the origin of these dangerous goods, whether of Community origin or imported into the Community, once there is an inherent threat to the health and safety of consumers,” McClauren said
He told stakeholders that the challenge for national consumer agencies in the CSME was that, in most cases, some of them have had to deal almost single-handedly with product recalls and dangerous goods on the market.
CARREX operates its Consumer Product Incident Reporting System through carrex.caricom.org, a website on which consumers in any CARICOM country can alert their national contact point about a product which they have found to cause harm or posses a safety hazard.