Czech flasks pose cancer risk, say Italian authorities


One of the country's biggest manufacturers of kitchenware is recording millions of crowns in losses. The Italian authorities have banned the sale of a number of thermal containers made by the Czech brand Tescoma, saying the flasks are carcinogenic. Dita Asiedu reports:

Tescoma, based in the Moravian town of Zlin, keeps the contents of most of its flasks hot or cool with the help of asbestos pads that hold the insulation between two inner glass walls. A procedure that the company says is standard with most manufacturers. But last month, the Italian authorities pulled nine Tescoma thermal containers off the market. They say asbestos fibres may be released if the internal glass container breaks and the asbestos board pads are handled. Thus, the flasks pose a dangerous threat to the consumer. But Tescoma refutes the claims. Almost all producers use the same amount of asbestos in their flasks and there is no viable reason for the ban, says the company's Richard Kalup:

"The Tescoma vacuum flasks are in all standards absolutely safe. This has been proven by the results of the latest expert study of the Czech national authorities. The whole affair seems to us to be more to affect competition on the European market. We will defend ourselves and our legal department has already required an explanation from the Italian authorities."

The Italian authorities have issued a high-level warning to the EU's Rapid Alert System for Non-Food Products, known as RAPEX. As a preventive measure, Tescoma has pulled its flasks off the Czech market until the results of a full laboratory analysis are released. The Czech commercial inspectorate, that conducted the tests, has now confirmed that consumers have no cause for concern. In a statement, the authority criticises Italy's measure. The inspectorate's Petr Hasman explains why:

"They did not make a risk assessment, which is very important. We did such a risk assessment and our result was that the risk is very low and it was not necessary to take any action in the RAPEX system. Regarding the form of this statement in RAPEX, it seems to us that it could be an instrument to repress the competition in trade."

The Czech Health Institute has also been issuing statements that Czechs need not return their flasks. The Czech authorities will now propose to lower the warning level in the EU's RAPEX system. But it will be up to an inspection in Brussels to decide whether or not the flasks pose a cancer risk.