‘Dangerous’ Woolworths display complaint sparks debate

Brooke Rolfe
·News Reporter
·4-min read

Questions have been raised over a dangerous item sold at Woolworths being displayed in a position easily accessible to children when they're being wheeled in a trolley.

A worried mum reported her concerns online after paying a visit to the Ashwood store in Victoria on Saturday, where she noticed button batteries on a carousel at her toddler's eye level.

In referenced to rules set to be mandated in 2022 requiring the batteries to be sold in child resistant packaging, the mum called on the supermarket to recognise the potential danger they posed to young visitors.

"I was shocked to discover today that Woolworths display these at a very accessible height to children - next to chocolates," she wrote.

Woolworths store pictured.
Woolworths has been confronted over its display of button batteries. Source: Getty Images

"My son could easily have reached out and grabbed these whilst sitting in one of your trolleys."

She expressed her heightened concern after watching an episode of ABC's Australian Story, which detailed the deaths of young children caused by swallowing the small circular batteries.

"Kids are visual, opportunistic predators. They will grab and swallow anything," Dr Ruth Barker, a paediatrician at the Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit, told the program.

A Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia that there had been "no safety incidents with button batteries" in any of their stores, but they they will now assess whether they "need to introduce any additional safeguards with this feedback in mind".

About 20 children nationally were presenting to emergency departments after swallowing button batteries, according to Product Safety Australia.

Once swallowed, the charge of button batteries become activated by the fluid in the esophagus and begins bubbling and produces sodium hydroxide - the same chemical used in oven cleaner.

The caustic product the begins to eat through the tissue inside the body and can cause serious illness, and potentially death.

Three children have died in Australia from swallowing a button battery, the dangers of which shaped an ACCC investigation beginning in 2019.

The introduction of four new button battery related mandatory safety and information standards were announced as a result in December 2020, including rules requiring improvements in the security of the packaging.

Child in trolley inside Woolworths next to button batteries.
A mum argued the button battery display could be dangerous for children. Source: Facebook

From June 2022, packaging or containers used to sell button batteries must be child-resistant in accordance with specified compliance tests.

Manufacturers were given an 18 month transition period to allow for design changes to take place.

Mum sparks fiery debate online

The Woolworths shopper argued the retailer should be proactive in the meantime to prevent a child being harmed.

"It’s not known how the children who have died came into contact with the batteries. Please do your bit to help keep our children safe and display these more securely," she wrote.

While some agreed Woolworths should move the products to an area children can't access, others accused the mum of over-reacting.

"Kids are quick, and meanwhile you’re occupied putting your items thru the checkout. They obviously don’t have kids. If Woolies put a bottle of bleach in the cold drink shelves at the checkout would all the nasties think that was okay?," one shopper responded.

Woolworths shopping carts are seen at a store in Double Bay in Sydney.
A Woolworths spokesperson has said that the retail giant will assess how they display button batteries following the complaint. Source: AAP

Others accused the woman of being dramatic and argued Woolworths weren't doing anything wrong.

"It is completely irrelevant that the batteries are easy to open at this point in time, when, as you have stated, the law does not come into effect until June next year," one wrote.

"I'm a grown adult and those batteries give me issues getting open. Your unsupervised child won't get into them," another said.

Woolworths to assess risks of battery display

A Woolworths spokesperson said the retail giant "treats safety concerns seriously".

"We thank the customer for sharing this feedback," they said in a statement.

"Like many retailers, we’ve been displaying button batteries this way for many years. Thankfully, we’ve never had any safety incidents with button batteries in our stores.

"However, we’ll assess whether we need to introduce any additional safeguards with this feedback in mind."

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