22nd Oct 2016

EU works to prevent dangerous Chinese toys entering market

  • Chinese products - which amount to over a quarter of all goods imported to the EU - are a number one for the bloc on account of safety issues (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission is working with China to prevent dangerous products entering the EU market, following a string of scandals over hazardous toys ending up in the bloc.

On Tuesday (14 August), US toymaker Mattel recalled 18.2 million Chinese-made toys worldwide, citing worries about paint containing lead and small magnets that can come loose.

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Earlier this month, Mattel's Fisher-Price unit recalled 1.5 million toys also due to lead in paint, while the European Union issued a warning over Chinese toothpastes, body creams and hair dyes.

"We are working very hard with the Chinese authorities for training and information exchange", the European Commission spokesperson was cited as saying by Euronews on Wednesday (15 August). "They have access to our system for notification so that they can follow up with producers and manufacturers in China", he added.

Chinese products - which amount to over a quarter of all goods imported to the EU - are a number one for the bloc on account of safety issues.

In 2006, more than 900 products were identified as too dangerous to be sold in the 27-nation market, with China being the country of origin in almost half of all those cases.

In 2005, 80 percent of all notifications regarding hazardous toys involved Chinese-made items, according to AP.

In response to such statistics, the EU and China signed in January 2006 a cooperation agreement on product safety that allowed Beijing to access an EU database of product alerts and recalls (RAPEX). Beijing agreed to act when the products concerned were of its origin.

But so far, China's response has not been seen in Brussels as satisfactory, with EU consumer protection commissioner Meglena Kuneva stating in July "this has not been executed properly, because again two reports are not what we expected". "What we need is to track down all of our notifications", she added, according to AP.

Last month, China promised to give detailed quarterly reports on how it deals with European complaints about dangerous products.

However, Lars Gjoerup from Top-Toy, the biggest Nordic chain of toy-stores, pointed out that safety is also a matter of price.

"You get, what you pay for", Mr Gjoerup told Danish daily Politiken, adding "when you press down the price [of a product] and place the production in an unprofessional place, then you operate in a high-risk area".

But continuing scandals could eventually harm the "Made in China" label, as consumers themselves start to doubt the quality of such products.

According to poll conducted last week and cited by Reuters, 82 percent of Americans are concerned about Chinese goods and nearly two-thirds said they would support a boycott.

Senior US senator Dick Durbin has already called for third-party inspections of "all shipments of children's products from China that contain paint".

"We can't wait any longer for China to crack down on its lax safety standards," Mr Durbin added.

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