Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Report on choking incidents does not tell whole story

26th February 2004

Following further evidence of choking incidents, Dr Charles Tannock MEP today called on the President of the Parliament to publish the report commissioned by the STOA Panel on the risks of inedibles in confectionery products, and urged the Commission to carry out a comprehensive survey to examine the true picture of choking incidents in the EU.

Key concerns

The authors of the STOA Panel report were obliged to base their study on Member States' official statistics; but there is a growing concern that those may hide a larger number of incidents involving these products and that the conclusion drawn by the reports authors that such products represent a "low risk" may not tell the whole story.

In particular, the footnotes to the report refer to a survey of over 500 A&E consultants, carried out by UK MP David Drew, which suggests that official statistics underestimate the true number of incidents. Responses to this survey highlighted that several known incidents arose at hospitals outside the scope of the Government's survey sample. 60% of consultants surveyed agreed that the association of chocolate with toys made it more likely that a child might place toy parts in its mouth. A survey of German GPs by Humboldt University also revealed over 30 hitherto undisclosed choking incidents involving toys inside chocolate eggs, over 90% of them attributable to one manufacturer. Legislators have received further reports of fatal and non-fatal incidents related to these products and not listed in national statistics.

Dr Tannock is now calling on the Commission to undertake a comprehensive study examining the adequacy of national statistics on this subject and considering the validity of the significant number of additional incidents being reported by medical practitioners, parents and others.

Chronology of events

  The STOA Panel was asked to prepare a report by the Environment Committee

  A report was prepared by RPA (Risk and Policy Analysts Limited), despite strong opposition from some STOA Panel members

  The report was subject to peer review by EASAC (European Academies Science Advisory Council) and five of the six scientists favoured its publication, while only one considered it biased against chocolate eggs

  The Parliament's Legal Opinion and and the unanimous opinion of the STOA Bureau was that the report should be published

  A vote was taken in the STOA Panel on 12 February rejecting publication of the report by 11 votes to 8. Eryl McNally has since published the report on her website. Glyn Ford resigned from the STOA Panel in protest

  On 18 February the Environment Committee heard a brief, neutral presentation from Trakatellis on the outcome of the vote

  Today, in response to Dr Tannock's intervention, Parliament Vice-President David Martin stated that President Cox was looking into the situation with regard to the STOA Panel report and was going to make a decision
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