Fabian Demicoli

New EU rules to strengthen toy safety

 There will be no more places for defective and dangerous toys in the EU market. As from today, new EU rules for toys are in force to fulfill the highest safety requirements worldwide. With the entry into force, the new Toys Directive, all actors involved in the production, selling and control of toys on the EU market will get more responsibilities to better protect children.

First of all, Member States will have to ensure that market surveillance authorities perform adequate checks both at the EU external borders and within the Union itself, also through visits at the premises of economic operators that will ensure the immediate confiscation of dangerous toys.  Second, toy manufacturers, importers and distributors have more obligations too. Before placing a new toy on the market, they will have to identify the hazards and the potential exposure to children via a safety assessment. Finally, manufacturers are also obliged to ensure traceability of the toy by indicating name, address and number of the item.

European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, responsible for industry and entrepreneurship, stated: "Safety for our children is our first priority. We have the best legislation on toys in the world with the highest safety requirements. However, it is not sufficient to strengthen the rules. We also need Member States to ensure enhanced market surveillance deterring fraudulent market operators ". 

Background
The new legal framework will replace the old Toy Safety Directive of 1988. The new directive addresses a wide range of issues to ensure that toys do not present any health hazards or risk of injury. For example, rules preventing children from choking or suffocating as a consequence of swallowing or inhaling toys or their parts are strengthened. Toys in or co-mingled with food always need to be in a separate packaging, and those that can be accessed only after the food surrounding them is actually consumed are prohibited.

Among the most remarkable examples of the risks for the safety and health of children, there are:

  • Parts or fragments of toys that can be swallowed by children with the risk of asphyxiation; among which puppets or cards mixed to food without an appropriate protective wrapper;
  • Baby-changing tables or highchairs that are not stable enough and may therefore trap the child;
  • Phthalates, chemical substances which make plastic softer, used in toys or baby's bottles, which may seriously damage kidneys and liver;
  • Counterfeit puppets and dolls extremely inflammable as processed with not conforming varnishes;

Flame retardant chemicals found in some toys causing alterations in the nervous system, possible negative effects on growth, and permanent endocrine system damages.

The EU Commission has prepared a guide with recommendations for consumers on how to protect their children from toy-related risks:

http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/sectors/toys/files/toys-safety-brochure/w-toys-safety-brochure_en.pdf
The European toy industry comprises over 25% of the world toy market. This is a highly internationalized industry and one of the most dynamic business sectors in Europe. Around 80% of the sector is comprised of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that have less than 50 employees.

In 2009, Total production of toys in the EU amounted to approximately €5 billion (manufacturer's price), of which 80% was generated by France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Spain, the UK, the Czech Republic and Poland.

In the EU, almost 2,000 manufacturers work in the toy sector. The toy industry directly employs nearly 100,000 people across the EU for production, research and development, marketing, sales, distribution, and many other services.

In 2010, total exports of traditional toys from EU27 countries to non-EU countries amounted to €1.05 billion (+10.2% compared to 2009).In 2010, total imports of traditional toys from non-EU countries to EU27 amounted to €6.96 billion (+20.3% compared to 2009).The total retail market for traditional toys in the EU totaled €14.485 billion in 2009. In terms of revenue (turnover at retail including tax), the European toy market was the largest in the world in 2009. In 2009, infant/preschool toys were the leading toy category in the EU, with almost 20% market share.

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