By John Miller
ZURICH (Reuters) – Swiss officials have opened investigations into importers and dealers of defective respiratory masks, they said on Friday, warning users of protective devices to be vigilant for flawed products rushed into the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Swiss Federal Office for Accident Prevention (BFA) and Swiss National Accident Insurance Fund (SUVA) said 60% of the protective masks they reviewed offered insufficient protection.
The call by the agencies does not pertain to soft hygienic masks people commonly wear in public or while riding trains and buses, but to more robust respiratory protective devices to help protect medical workers from the deadly disease.
Most of the masks were labelled KN95, the agencies said, a label that may indicate approval in China.
In April, the Swiss government relaxed import restrictions on protective gear so its health system had enough amid a global scramble.
“SUVA and BFU noticed…reports that numerous defective products were in circulation,” the agencies said. Products, mostly purchased online, were tested in a SUVA laboratory.
After scrutinising about 60 kinds of masks, the agencies determined that “more than 60 percent of the models do not offer sufficient protection”.
SUVA did not immediately say whether the investigation could lead to criminal or civil proceedings against suppliers of the defective masks.
People using protective masks should make sure that they have the so-called CE mark, reflecting conformity to European standards, followed by a four-digit number that may be indicative of their quality. Packaging and conformity declarations for such masks should match details of the manufacturer and its address.
“We recommend that masks be purchased in speciality medical stores or from recognised dealers,” the agencies said, adding specific results of their mask review are not yet public because of their ongoing probe.
(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Peter Graff)