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Inedibles in food
In May, Portugal became the first EU member state to publish a law forbidding unwrapped inedibles from being sold with food. Portugal's child safety organisation, APSI, sought unsuccessfully to toughen the requirements to protect children, recommending that the inedible article should be aimed at the minimum age of the consumers of the food product. For example, if a cereal is for a baby aged from 6 months, the trader should not be allowed to claim that the object present is for 3 year olds. In addition, APSI called for the inedible object to be packaged to prevent accidents—it should have holes if rigid or the characteristics of the plastic should not allow a child to suffocate or to choke on it. This was proposed because there have been complaints in Portugal about children almost choking on the rigid capsule that contains the toy of Kinder Eggs. These comments were not considered by the government so the law, that came into force in November, is not as effective as it could be.
School buses in Portugal
Since the beginning of 1998, APSI has been raising awareness of the public for the need to improve children's safety when they are carried by school buses. There are many injuries and accidents due to overloading, the bad condition of the bus, unsupervised children, lack of seat belts, and poorly located bus stops. Even babies and children under 3 years old when they go to daycare centres are carried in buses or minibuses without any kind of restraint. APSI has written to the Prime Minister about it but nothing has changed. The Ministry of Health is concerned about it, and in its strategies for the year 2002 it aims to have a law defining minimum requirements for the safe transport of children.
Children in cars
It is still possible to buy child restraints to the now out of date European regulation R44.02 in Portugal, mainly old models from Portuguese manufacturers. APSI has been undertaking regular surveys of the way children are carried in cars. The most recent was in June 1999, and although the number of children properly restrained is slowly rising, it is still very low—only 21% of children under 12 are properly restrained. For children aged 3 years and under, half of the children were restrained although the observers, who were checking from outside the vehicle, reported that one third of these are obviously misused. The main errors noted were infant seats facing forward, infant seats lying on the car seat without being restrained, children unrestrained while the seat is restrained, and children restrained in an unrestrained seat!
Accident prevention in Portugal's health strategies
The Ministry of Health has published the Strategies for Health including targets for a reduction by 2007 of 30% in road crash deaths and a reduction in injuries at home and school and during leisure activities. The targets for 2002 include a fall by 15% of the road accident mortality rate by raising of restraint use, legislation for safe school bus transportation, compulsory use of cycle helmet and other issues related to cycling.
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