European retailers including Tesco, Galeria Kaufhof and Co-Op are breaching the EU’s flagship chemical regulation by selling items like children’s flip-flops and sports shoes without providing shoppers with details of the potentially harmful substances they contain, new research claims.

According to the Brussels-based European Environmental Bureau, under the REACH (Registration Evaluation Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals) regulations, retailers are legally obliged to provide information on harmful chemicals in everyday products.

Shoppers also have the right to contact a retailer to find out whether a SVHC is on a ‘candidate list’ of chemicals to be phased out in the future.

However, the EEB reveals in its report ‘The Fight to Know?’ that half of the 158 information requests sent to European retailers between April-August 2010 received no response. And just 22% of the requests received satisfactory answers that meet REACH requirements.

Its research found many products – including children’s flip-flops and sports shoes – contain high concentrations of phthalates, plasticisers used to make plastic more flexible. These chemicals are listed as substances of very high concern (SVHC) and recognised to be toxic for reproduction.