Is your fridge a fire risk?

Which? warns public about plastic-backed models

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close up of hand opening refrigerator

As many as half of all fridges currently being sold are a fire hazard, consumer watchdog Which? has warned.

It says that using non-flame retardant plastic backing on fridges, freezers and fridge freezers could help a fire spread in people's homes.

See also: Could your washing machine or fridge be a fire risk?

See also: Tumble dryers cause almost one fire a day

Tests by the London Fire Brigade have shown this type of fridge going up in flames after just 90 seconds, while a fire set in a fridge with metal backing didn't take hold for 20 minutes and then went out by itself.

But of 500 fridges that Which? reviewed, 230 had the plastic backing - including models from Whirlpool, Smeg and John Lewis. Which? says it's stopped recommending these models, removing 'best buys' from dozens of models across its sites.

It has also written to manufacturers asking them to stop producing these appliances, and calling for the introduction of tougher safety standards.

"Manufacturers must immediately stop making fridges, freezers and fridge freezers to a standard ​that they know is clearly deficient and inadequate, and could potentially be putting people's lives at risk," says Alex Neill, managing director of Which? home and product services.

"This once again shows that the UK's product safety regime is simply not fit for purpose, and the government can no longer continue to allow it to fail."

It's a particularly sensitive subject right now, given the death of around 80 people in the Grenfell Tower fire, which is believed to have been started by a Hotpoint fridge freezer. That particular model is now under investigation by technical experts.

And, says Which?, it's time that the government set up a new national body to make sure manufacturers keep households safe.

However, you shouldn't worry too much if you already have a plastic-backed model: only 7% of fires caused by faulty appliances were caused by fridge-freezers, fridges or freezers, says Which?. Washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers are all more of a fire risk.

"People who already have one of these models in their homes shouldn't be alarmed, but our advice is that ​no-one should purchase one from new," says Neill.

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