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Minister welcomes BSA decision

Hon Judith Tizard
Minister of Consumer Affairs

11 July 2008

Minister welcomes BSA decision on formaldehyde episode

Consumer Affairs Minister Judith Tizard, welcomes the Broadcasting Standards Authority decision to uphold a complaint about an item aired by TV3’s Target programme in August last year, alleging dangerous levels of formaldehyde in clothing.

“The Broadcasting Standards Authority found that Target had misled and unnecessarily alarmed viewers in its presentation of test results of formaldehyde in clothing.

“I am pleased that Target is being held to account for its actions. The story resulted in unnecessary distress for consumers and abuse directed towards retailers. This penalty is an important reminder that stories like this must be handled responsibly by broadcasters and that anyone testing products must test to the appropriate international standards.”

“The responsible approach would have been to work through any concerns with the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and their testing laboratories.

Target is required to broadcast an apology and pay the Crown $4,000.

Following the allegations made by Target the Ministry of Consumer Affairs started an immediate investigation and tested 99 items of clothing and manchester.

“The Ministry’s test results showed there was no health or safety issue with the levels of formaldehyde in clothes,” said Judith Tizard.

The Ministry found that Target had tested to the wrong standard. Target tested clothing for total formaldehyde content rather than for unbound "free" formaldehyde, which is why their results were so dramatically different to the Ministry’s test results.

The government has recently approved a product safety policy statement setting acceptable levels of formaldehyde in clothing, a move that will provide greater certainty for New Zealand consumers. This statement complements the Consumer Guarantees Act by setting out what is considered acceptable quality and fit for purpose.

Voluntary compliance with the policy statement will be monitored by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs Measurement and Product Safety Service.

A copy of Government Product Safety Policy Statement on Acceptable Limits of Formaldehyde in Clothing and Other Textiles can be found on the Ministry of Consumer Affairs website at www.consumeraffairs.govt.nz .

Consumers should report products they think might be unsafe to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs Measurement and Product Safety Service.

ENDS

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