14th May 2021

Commission says China's progress on toy safety 'encouraging'

  • Meglena Kuneva - "There is a very thin line between protection and protectionism" (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission has said that "considerable progress" has been made by China on toy safety in response to several major toy recalls on health grounds.

On Thursday (22 November), consumer affairs commissioner Meglena Kuneva said that the commission has been reviewing every link in the toy supply chain, paying special attention to toy imports from China.

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In recent months, several major toy manufacturers, including Mattel and Fisher Price, have recalled millions of toys made in China because of detachable magnets that could be swallowed and because of poisonous levels of lead in the paint used on certain toys.

But the commission did not give in to calls for a ban on Chinese toy imports.

"There is a very thin line between protection and protectionism. There are some old world protectionists who would like to hide behind the skirt of consumer safety. I think they believe that risk is more defined by passports than by hazards involved. This hasn't been our point of departure," said the commissioner.

Mrs Kuneva added that the commission had three cornerstones on which it built its overall product safety policy.

"First, there can be no compromise on consumer safety. Second, we believe in open markets and fair competition. And third, we want to work in partnership with the Chinese," she said, adding that considerable progress has been made by the Chinese regarding the rapid alert system put in place for dangerous products.

To further increase the safety of Chinese products in the future, the commission is planning to step up its technical assistance to the Chinese domestic alert system, to carry out a study on product safety controls in China, and to continue its cooperation with the US on the matter.

In September, Mrs Kuneva had warned that the EU could impose a ban on some Chinese goods if no progress was made by the country.

While progress has been made, the commissioner warned that there "are still significant problems within the industry in making sure, particularly at the lower end of the market, that toys are safe."

Overhaul of legislation

Besides the emphasis laid on China, Mrs Kuneva also set out a series of proposals aimed at strengthening the enforcement and implementation of product safety controls currently in place in the EU.

But these proposals will not be put in place before the Christmas period.

Mrs Kuneva reiterated that she considers the current regulatory framework to be fundamentally sound, but added that the Commission should be able to adapt to changes rapidly by frequently amending the legislation put in place.

"Basically, the regulatory framework is up to the job when and if it is properly applied. It is basically capable of ensuring a high level of consumer protection and a high level of intercommunity trade. (...) Combined with the legislation in the pipeline, it gives us the tools for the job," the commissioner said.

In particular, the commission is planning to overhaul its Toy Directive by the first quarter of 2008, revise its rules on cosmetics, and introduce a 'New Approach Package' which will deal with market surveillance and import controls.

Furthermore, a comprehensive audit of business safety measures in the toy supply chain was commanded, and results are expected by the first quarter of 2008. The commissioner also proposed making a safety pact with the industry and that member states increase their efforts concerning surveillance, warnings and traceability.

The European consumers' organisation BEUC, which represents 40 national consumer rights groups across 30 European nations, welcomed these new initiatives in a statement.

It has previously said that legislation "has not been properly applied in recent years."

Commission wants 'extremely high' toy safety standards

The European Commission on Tuesday said it is taking the problem of potentially harmful toys seriously and is overhauling legislation in the area, following a series of recalls of toys made in China on safety grounds.

EU threatens to ban unsafe Chinese products

The European Union on Wednesday said that it could ban some Chinese products from entering the EU market unless they meet the bloc's criteria on health and safety by October.

EU hits back at China's accusation over hazardous products

Amid growing concern about the safety of a series of Chinese products in recent weeks, the European Union has rejected a claim from Beijing that the bloc's response is politically motivated to protect its market.

Chinese toys top EU product blacklist

The EU has issued an alert against almost one thousand dangerous products being sold across Europe over the past year, with potentially harmful toys representing a fourth of the blacklisted goods and half of all notified products being imports from China.

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