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CONSUMER REPORTS - Laundry detergent packets that you just toss into the washing machine have risen in sales. But safety concerns for children have also increased with more than 20,000 calls to poison control centers since the packets went mainstream in 2012.

Consumer Reports says the candy-colored packets contain highly-concentrated detergent that is toxic to ingest. One big issue is with the packaging. When these products first came out, some of the biggest manufacturers used clear containers that resembled snack jars. And some of their lids were flimsy and not designed to deter children.

Costco made the switch to an opaque container for its Kirkland detergent and has improved the lids. Procter and Gamble, the maker of Tide, has also introduced an opaque container with a child resistant lid. Another important change Consumer Reports think manufacturers should make is to redesign the packets themselves so that they don't look like candy.

At home, the most important precaution is to keep the containers closed and out of the reach of children. If you think your child has been injured call the poison control hotline immediately at 1-800-222-1222.

Another reason to think twice about single-use detergent pack — none are recommended in Consumer Reports' latest ratings, in part because they didn't do as well as some other detergents in its new cool water test.

Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports' website. Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org.

(Copyright © 2014 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

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