The European Commission has raised concerns about the effectiveness of the European Union's (EU) RAPEX rapid alert consumer protection service that highlights dangerous products - often clothing.

The system commonly highlights clothes risking choking wearers because of misplaced drawstrings and using dyes banned in the EU.

Although the system swiftly alerts consumer protection authorities within the EU's 27 countries, it has encountered difficulties in tracing original manufacturers outside the EU, warned a Commission report.

It said China was a particular problem, where its authorities had probed 599 RAPEX-reported dangerous products exported to the EU between 2006 and 2008, but took no action in 49% of cases - "mainly because of the lack of available information about the Chinese manufacturer or exporter", warned Brussels.

It called for better international coordination on tracing exported products.

By Keith Nuthall.