UK firm recalls ‘Indian’ radioactive belts

Asos-beltsLONDON: Britain’s largest online fashion retailer ‘Asos’ has recalled a range of premium leather belts allegedly manufactured in India, after the metal studs on them were found to be “radioactive”.

The belts, believed to be supplied by Haq International and manufactured by Royal Ascot Leather in north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, could cause injury to the wearer if worn for more than 500 hours, according to an internal report by the retailer. They are being held in a radioactive storage facility after testing positive for Cobalt-60.

“A product supplied to Asos did not meet UK health and safety standards. Asos worked with all relevant authorities and undertook a precautionary product recall, in line with our high standards of quality and customer care. No other Asos product lines are affected,” an Asos spokesperson said.

Supplier Faizan Haq has been refused permission to inspect the belts, with Asos telling him that counter-terrorism agencies believe he is a security risk.

The internal report, titled ‘Project Purple Flower’, said one of the brass-studded belts was pulled by US border control and tested positive.

It confirmed that the majority of the 801 brass studs in the belts were contaminated. This led to a worldwide recall of the items, with 49 sold across 14 countries, but it is not known how many have been returned.

The report, accessed by British newspaper ‘Guardian’ said, “None of these belts are suitable for public use or possession. Unfortunately, this incident is quite a common occurrence. India and the Far East are large consumers of scrap metal for their home and foreign markets. During the refining process of these metals, orphaned radioactive sources are sometimes accidentally melted at the same time. This in turn [contaminates the process] and traps the radioactivity in the metal as an alloy or in suspension.”

However, documents seen by the Guardian show that the belts Asos claims are contaminated do not match the description of the belts supplied by Haq, or any of the 30 products supplied by the firm.

Moreover, independent tests by the Health Protection Agency at Haq’s London warehouse found there was no radiation from any of the belts and metal stored there, while in India the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board carried out an inspection that has not been shared with him.

Despite this Asos is demanding 100,000 pounds from the supplier in recall charges and has withheld 64,000 pounds owed to the businessman, who has had to cancel orders with Miss Selfridge and shut his factory for five months, leaving 18 Indian workers without jobs. He claims he has also had to sell his car to hire his own lawyers.

Asos has since offered to pay Haq 24,000 pounds, but he has still not been able to see the belts since the issue was first raised in a meeting with senior Asos buyers in December last year. -PTI

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