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Warning over millions of unsafe goods entering our ports

Millions of unsafe goods have been entering UK ports Photo: National Trading Standards

Latest figures from National Trading Standards reveal nearly two million unsafe or noncompliant products were identified between April and December 2014.

Children's toys, cosmetics and DIY products are biggest offenders Children's scooters, beauty products and LED lights are among 1.9 million items that were intercepted at entry points in England and Wales between April and December 2014, estimates from National Trading Standards reveal.

Millions of unsafe products like these bulbs and toys have been entering UK ports Credit: National Trading Standards

The new figures, which equate to more than 6,500 detained items every day, are thought to be the 'tip of the iceberg' as consumers are urged to take extra care when shopping online.

During the nine-month period analysed by National Trading Standards*, nearly two in five interventions by its Safety at Ports and Borders teams identified products as 'unsafe or noncompliant', meaning they posed a risk to the health or safety of consumers. Taking these products out of the supply chain is estimated to save the UK economy over £57 million** in potential costs of injuries, fatalities or fires.

Millions of unsafe products like this LED bulb have been entering UK ports Credit: National Trading Standards

Items detained by the NTS Safety at Ports and Borders teams, who work across 14 local authorities at ports, airports and postal hubs, included 397 home tooth whitening kits containing unsafe levels of hydrogen peroxide, thousands of cosmetic products like shampoo, skin lightening cream and body lotion, LED lights, children's scooters and other toys.

With consumers increasingly shopping online and searching for a bargain, National Trading Standards is urging everyone to think before they buy and has produced a checklist to help people shop more safely. Top tips include checking out the reviews of the product you want to purchase - or the seller you wish to buy from - and checking that there is a way to contact the seller offline.

Millions of unsafe products like this light bulb have been entering UK ports Credit: National Trading Standards

"In this country it is easy to take for granted that everything we buy will be safe. But on the internet you are exposed to rogue traders all over the world who are waiting to lure you in with tempting deals for products that are frankly dangerous. Protecting consumers from harm is our top priority and our Safety at Ports and Borders teams are uncovering thousands of unsafe items at check points every day. We are proud of our teams' work but sadly we believe these figures just represent the tip of the iceberg. We are urging consumers to be on their guard when shopping online, doing some research before they buy and being wary of deals that look good to be true. And to help us do our job, we are asking people to report any sellers, websites or products they've received that they suspect of being unsafe to the Citizen's Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06."

– Lord Toby Harris, Chair, National Trading Standards
Millions of unsafe products like these have been entering UK ports Credit: National Trading Standards

"The figures revealed today are staggering and illustrate the importance of the work carried out by trading standards. On a recent visit to Southampton Port I was able to see first-hand how they identify unsafe goods and stop them from reaching our streets. We have increased funding for Trading Standards to specifically target ports and borders, and consumers can play an active part in making sure they report any problem items to their local team."

– Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson

"These seizures over six months demonstrate how many potentially harmful items enter the UK every year. Not only do these products hurt consumers, they negatively impact the UK economy and undermine legitimate businesses. Trading standards officers strive to protect these goods from reaching consumers at ports, online and on the high street unfortunately, trading standards budgets have been cut by an average of more than 40 per cent over the lifetime of this parliament. It's imperative for the health and safety of UK consumers that funding for trading standards remain a top priority following this year's election."

– Trading Standards Institute CEO Leon Livermore

To support the work of the NTS Safety at Ports & Borders teams, more funding is being channelled to the teams following a grant from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

Products detained by NTS Safety at Ports and Borders teams include: Between July - November 2014, 64% of LED lightbulbs tested across various UK border points were found to be unsafe or noncompliant

In Coventry, parcels containing 397 home tooth whitening kits that contained 61 times the permitted amount of hydrogen peroxide were detained

Nearly 1,000 chainsaws imported from China were seized and shown to have a number of crucial faults, including brakes that did not work when the engine was running and a 'kill switch' which did not stop the engine immediately

20 unsafe children's scooters were detained by teams in Suffolk, as well as aquarium lights, electrical chargers, black henna and skateboards

Since April 2013, 9,809 carcinogenic skin lightening creams have been intercepted at Tilbury and Gateway ports

Between April - December 2014, 670,891 cosmetic products including shampoo, skin whitening cream, soap, skin lightening oil, henna products, body lotion and face cream were identified at UK border points as unsafe or noncompliant.