Page last updated at 11:57 GMT, Monday, 9 June 2008 12:57 UK

'Weak links' in Chinese toy firms

Sarge, from Mattel, one of the products withdrawn last year
Europe gets 85% of its toys from China

The Chinese toy industry still has "weak links" despite progress in addressing product safety concerns, a European Commission report has claimed.

Smaller manufacturers are struggling to ensure their goods meet the required standards, due to a lack of knowledge of procedures and staff training.

The report was commissioned last autumn after a wave of product recalls of Chinese-made toys in Europe and the US.

Brussels said there were still "too many" dangerous toys on sale in Europe.

China manufactures more than 85% of toys sold in Europe.


European Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva said she would show the findings of the report to Chinese officials next month.

The recalls show there are still too many unsafe toys appearing on the EU market
Meglena Kuneva, European Consumer Affairs Commissioner

It makes 50 recommendations to tighten up safety procedures, including warnings about the dangers posed by magnets in toys.

"Despite the many efforts undertaken by the various actors in the toy supply chain, the recalls show there are still too many unsafe toys appearing on the EU market," she stressed.

Leading toymakers, such as Mattel, were forced to withdraw millions of products from sale last year because they contained excessively high levels of lead in their paint or parts at risk of coming loose and being swallowed by children.

In the US, 25 million toy units were recalled in the year to the end of September.

The incidents led to calls in the US and Europe for far more stringent testing of products in China and for manufacturers of unsafe products to be given hefty fines.

The Commission said its research had found that the Chinese authorities had made "significant progress" in stiffening testing procedures and tackling abuses of the system.

But smaller operators remained a concern, it said, as they had less power over suppliers and their controls were not so effective.

In general, it added, Chinese firms needed to make safety compliance part of their business culture and not just rely on meeting basic government export control requirements.

There was also evidence that enforcement practices and testing mechanisms in some EU states were not up to scratch due to a perceived "lack of expertise" in toy manufacturing.

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