Consumers are being warned not to buy fridges and freezers with flammable plastic backs as they can accelerate the spread of a fire.

 But people who already have one of the appliances are being told not to worry as refrigerator fires are rare.

 The warning comes from consumer champion Which? following a review of fridge and freezer safety standards.

 Which? has stopped recommending almost 240 products with non-flame retardant plastic backs and has written to manufacturers urging them to stop using potentially flammable backing material.

 It is also pushing for the introduction of tougher safety standards on cold appliances.

 Which? looked at 506 fridges, freezers and fridge-freezers and found that 46% do not have fully fire retardant backs.

A fridge-freezer is thought to have been the starting point of the Grenfell Tower fire

 A full list of recommendations is available on the Which? website but you’ll have to sign up for a £1 trial if you’re not already a member.

 Which? said consumers who already own a plastic-backed appliance shouldn’t worry as government fire data shows only 7% of fires caused by faulty appliances were attributed to fridges, freezers or fridge-freezers.

 It said the concern over the plastic backing is that it allows an existing fire to spread – not that it is the cause of fire itself.

 The London Fire Brigade has also been campaigning to make fridges and freezers safer in the event of a fire.

 It says the appliances contain large amounts of highly flammable insulation often protected at the back by a thin plastic covering.

 The brigade demonstrated the dangers of these flammable plastic backs in a controlled burn test in 2015.

 A plastic-backed fridge-freezer used in the test was “well alight” after 90 seconds and had to be extinguished after two-and-a-half minutes.

 But a fire set in a metal-backed appliance never really took hold and self-extinguished after about 20 minutes.

Manufacturers must immediately stop making fridges, freezers and fridge freezers to a standard that they know is clearly deficient and inadequate

Alex Neill, Which?
Atom 291 lives here

 A Hotpoint fridge-freezer is thought to have been the starting point for the Grenfell Tower fire, but investigations are ongoing and it is not yet known whether the appliance had a flammable back.

 Alex Neill, managing director of Which? home and product services, said: “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.

 “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.

 “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.”

 A spokesperson for the Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances (AMDEA) said: “Consumers should not be alarmed.

 “All fridge freezers sold in the UK are legally required to comply with a 60-page safety standard.

 “This specifies that all casing materials, including plastics, must be tested for fire retardance by a series of prescribed scientific methods.

 “Hence, although we run some 43 million fridges and freezers, including some we keep for years, fires are very rare.”

AMDEA advises householders to register their appliances at www.registermyappliance.org.uk so manufacturers can contact them easily if a safety issue arises with their model.