How authentication helps fashion brands defend consumers from health risks
REACH Regulation aims to safeguard consumers’ health. But consumers also need tools to protect themselves
As the saying goes, you are what you wear. And for many people, that means being fashionable and stylish. But as a fashion brand comes more popular, so does the risk of inadvertently buying a counterfeit product. Counterfeiters have no regard for consumer safety, and often fake products are made from harmful materials. So, counterfeiting is not only a problem from a brand protection perspective, but also for health reasons. In this article, we are going to explain the EU REACH Regulation, how it ensures that all products (including fashion items) sold in Europe meet international safety standards, and how authentication helps fashion brands defend consumers against health risks.
The EU REACH Regulation
The REACH Regulation, or the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals, is an EU-wide regulation aimed at ensuring that all products sold in Europe meet strict safety standards. REACH requires any product made with chemicals to be registered with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
The goal is to improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks associated with the use of a wide range of chemicals: from those in industrial processes to those for household cleaning, including even those found in articles such as clothing.
REACH establishes procedures for collecting information and evaluating the properties of the substances and their hazards. It also requires all companies that use chemicals in their products to disclose information about them, such as what substances are used and how they are used.
Once the information is received, ECHA assesses regulatory compliance and possible risk management. EU member states evaluate the substances to understand their risks to human health and the environment. If the resulting risks are unmanageable, authorities can ban, restrict, or make the use of a hazardous substance subject to authorisation.
REACH falls on manufacturers, importers, and users. However, companies established outside the EU are not bound by the obligations of the regulation.
The health risks behind counterfeit products
The data come from the European Commission's "Rapid Alert System for Dangerous Non-Food Products" (RAPEX). According to RAPEX:
- 97% of recorded dangerous counterfeit goods between 2010 and 2017 were assessed as posing a serious risk;
- Clothing, Textiles, and Fashion Items are the second most popular type of product reported as dangerous;
- the most common danger reported was related to exposure to hazardous chemicals and toxins that could cause acute or long-term health issues from immediate or long-term exposure;
- 24% of the dangerous products recorded as counterfeit posed more than one danger to users.
The most commonly reported hazard was the danger of chemical risks, followed by strangulation.
As suggested by the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), fake products may contain dangerous levels of phthalates, but also arsenic, cadmium, or lead.
Product authentication as a form of health protection
Initiatives such as the REACH Regulation are essential to address the root health risks of counterfeit products. However, consumers need to know whether the garment they are buying is real or fake. That's why product authentication is key.
Product authentication is the process of verifying that a product is genuine. It takes place through verification methods such as ID numbers and holograms that are placed on the packaging or the product itself, or for example through smart labels such as QR codes or RFID chips that customers can check with their smartphones. Another solution is the digital product passport, which is a digital document that contains all the product’s data. Certilogo, for instance, provides a platform for brands to securely outsource product authentication and for customers to check the item’s authenticity.
Product authentication gives consumers certainty about the authenticity of an item, and thanks to the information a brand can share about raw materials, certifications, and production processes along the entire supply chain provide trust in the quality and safety of the product. Once consumers are able to verify authenticity, they can be sure that a product is safe.
Moreover, authentication also enables companies to keep track of their products, monitor their performance, and detect potentially dangerous counterfeit items before they reach the consumer, preventing them from coming onto the market in the first place.
For all these reasons, product authentication is a powerful tool for both customers and brands. In so doing, REACH Regulation's goal is fulfilled: protecting people from dangerous fake products.