Products that resemble foods and appeal to children Potential risks of accidental ingestion
5. What are current safety measures against poisonning?
Blister packets can stop children swallowing whole bottles of medication.
The most effective way of preventing accidental poisoning is
to replace the toxic
ingredient by one which is less harmful. Child-resistant
packaging is another very useful prevention method, credited
with reducing the number of deaths from unintentional poisoning
by about 85% in 32 years in England and Wales. Using containers
with shapes and labels that make them less attractive to
children could be another way of preventing poisonings. However,
written warnings are not effective and warning labels may even
Children usually prefer sweet tastes so sometimes, bittering
agents such as denatonium benzoate are added to cosmetics and
cleaners to prevent accidental poisonings. Products spiked with
even minute quantities of denatonium benzoate have an extremely
unpleasant taste and would stop children drinking significant
quantities of it. However, there is no evidence that this
reduces the number of serious poisonings. In any case, severe
poisoning is still possible when swallowing even small
quantities of certain types of products, such as those
containing high concentrations of acid or alkaline ingredients
(e.g. former household dishwasher products and oven cleaners) or
alcohols and glycols, such as anti-freeze and windscreen wash.
The addition of bittering agents is also unsuitable for some
products which are toxic
when they are breathed in rather than
Education campaigns on safety measures directed to parents and
other people who take care of children, as well as cleaners are
also effective and today serious cases of poisonings in children
are very rare. There have been serious incidents and even deaths
for elderly people who have drunk products containing
surfactants, but the number of cases is also in decline.