With the increase in online selling amidst the current Canadian affordability crisis, Health Canada is remaining vigilant.
According to Pierre Denault, a product safety officer with Health Canada who was recently on a compliance check in Stettler, one of the mandates of the organization is to ensure rule compliance in traditional brick-and-mortar stores; however, staff, and the public, also keep an eye on items for sale in places such as popular website Kijiji or Facebook’s Marketplace.
Denault says that if any of the items for sale are prohibited, “We can contact them to have the advertisement removed.”
Items prohibited for sale include things like baby walkers, children’s clothing with drawstrings, or items missing straps. Walkers have been banned from sale in Canada since 2004; anyone caught selling or advertising the infant devices can face significant fines.
“We heavily rely on the consumer to report pages,” said Denault.
“If no one tells us, we don’t know.”
If purchasing items online, according to Denault, there are a few things that savvy consumers can do to protect themselves.
First, only deal with responsive sellers.
Second, ask questions about the history of the product, and make sure that a car seat or helmet hasn’t been involved in an accident or a hit which would reduce its effectiveness.
Third, do some research online and check for any recall notices on the item in question.
“Recall notices will give you an idea if (the item) can be fixed or not,” said Denault.
Denault says that Health Canada is an advocate for the reuse of second-hand items, as long as the items being sold second-hand are compliant.
Another mandate for Health Canada involves the reporting of post-market product issues.
Denault says that producers in Canada have mandatory safety issue reporting requirements; when a problem is found, they are required to notify Health Canada, which will then issue a recall notice on its website.
An example of voluntary reporting leading to a recall is the Bumbo child seat.
The Bumbo is a moulded plastic seat with warnings not to use it on an elevated surface; between 2007, when a first warning was issued, and 2012, when the item was fully recalled, five Canadian children were reported to have fallen from the seats, off the raised surface upon which it was placed, with three minor reports of injuries.
In the United States, the manufacturer knew of “at least 50 incidents” in the same time period, 19 of which resulted in skull fractures.
As a result of the recall, consumers were instructed to contact the company for a free retrofit kit, which included a belt and new warning sticker, and consumers continued to be reminded not to use it on elevated positions.
Consumers and first responders can also voluntarily report safety issues via Health Canada’s website.
According to an email from Deanna Chan, a Health Canada communications advisor, the split in 2022 between industry-reported and consumer-reported safety issues is around 40 per cent to 60 per cent, with consumers having reported just under 1,000 incidents and industry having reported just under 1,300.
At the end of the day, Denault says, that Health Canada’s role is about protecting consumers.
“We want to find out early (about issues) from industry and consumers,” said Denault.
For more information about recalls or product safety check out the Health Canada website at https://recalls-rappels.canada.ca/en.