BONN, Germany (CN) – The European Union passed new legislation aiming to make it a world leader in toy safety. The EU is a major global toy producer, and represents the largest toy market on earth.
“We have the best legislation on toys in the world with the highest safety requirements,” European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani stated.
Toys can pose various risks to children, including choking, the presence of hormone-mimicking chemicals known as phthalates, extreme flammability and even chemical burns.
The new legal framework aims to address these risks and others, replacing a directive from 1988.
About a quarter of the world’s toys, amounting to around $21 billion on the retail market in 2009, are manufactured in Europe, including in top toy-producing countries on the continent such as France, Germany and Italy.
But according to EU figures, it trades a toy deficit, last year importing $10 billion, while exporting roughly $1.5 billion in playthings. About 80 percent of EU toy imports come from China.
Consumer Affairs, an agency the European Commission – the executive branch of the EU – implements consumer safety. A key component of this is the Rapid Alert System for non-food dangerous products, or RAPEX.
RAPEX is designed as an information-sharing system, where EU countries report health risks for products, both imported and produced within the EU.
Once reported, the commission disseminates the information to other member countries, including through a weekly report. EU authorities ensure that individual nations warn consumers or recall the product.
A RAPEX report from 2010 shows that chemical, strangulation and choking risks top the notification list.
About 60 percent of the notified dangerous products originated in China last year. China is a major source of counterfeits, often a problem for flammability of puppets and dolls.
A special RAPEX subsystem coordinates with Chinese authorities on products produced there.
About 13 percent of dangerous products were produced within the EU last year.
Tajani called on member states to step up their toy safety work: “We also need Member States to ensure enhanced market surveillance deterring fraudulent market operators.”
Under the new rules, member states are to ensure adequate border checks and confiscation of dangerous toys. Manufacturers will be obliged to assess the safety of toys they produce, and include a traceable name and address for products.
The People’s Daily reported that compliance with the new rules will increase production costs for Chinese companies, which produce nearly three-quarters of the world’s toys.