International co-operation ‘a priority’ in EU toy safety review

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Increasing EU co-operation with the US and China on toy safety is a priority, Commissioner for Consumer Protection Meglena Kuneva announced yesterday (22 November), presenting plans to strengthen product safety across the Union.

The Commission’s ‘Consumer Product Safety Review’ is designed to strengthen the enforcement and implementation of its safety controls, after safety concerns caused millions of Chinese toys to be withdrawn from the EU market last summer. 

While praising the “considerable progress” made by China in stopping the flow of dangerous goods onto the EU market, the Commission pledged to “carry out a study of product safety mechanisms in place” there to identify further areas for co-operation. It also emphasised its “shared interest” with the US to co-operate on issues of common concern. 

Elsewhere, the plan includes a comprehensive audit of business safety measures in the toy supply chain, to be completed by the first quarter of 2008, and introduces specific measures to improve risk surveillance by national market surveillance and customs authorities, including warnings about the dangers of magnets in toys. 

Pledging to “make sure the system is fit for purpose”, Commissioner Kuneva emphasised her “100% commitment” to keeping the pressure on to “ensure the highest possible level of safety for our citizens”. 

However, she warned that “in this world you cannot give 100% guarantees”, and the review stressed that “the first legal responsibility to put safe toys on the market lies with industry”, a view which was supported by European consumers’ organisation BEUC, as well as the EPP-ED group in the European Parliament. 

BEUC welcomed the review, but stated it “would be less kind than the Commission about the past efforts of industry, national authorities and the Commission itself in relation to […] toy safety in particular”. Its director, Jim Murray, said that “the real test of this stocktaking exercise is whether the right lessons are learned, the right actions taken and we have safe products on the market”. 

MEP Malcolm Harbour (UK), EPP-ED group coordinator on the internal market committee, said that his group “fully supported” the Commissioner’s plan. He shared Kuneva’s view that the current EU legislation is sufficient, but urged its “better enforcement” by member states, “particularly when it comes to removing dangerous toys from shelves without delay”. 

“Priority should remain on the existing systems including national authorities instead of the establishment of new mechanisms”, added his colleague Andreas Schwab (EEP-ED, DE). 

 The Commission will present its proposals for a revision of the Toy Directive in the first quarter of 2008.

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