By Stephen Mulvey
EU reporter, BBC News
The European Commission has released figures showing a rapid rise in the number of dangerous goods withdrawn from sale across the European Union.
A child could choke on the fasteners holding this bear's clothes together
The increase is seen in Brussels as proof that an EU-wide alert system is working better to protect consumers.
The number of non-food items banned from sale more than doubled between 2004 and 2006.
Toys now form the biggest category of hazardous goods on sale, the vast majority of them from China.
About half of all goods withdrawn in 2006 were Chinese.
Examples posted on the website of the rapid alert system, Rapex, include:
- A teddy bear, which a child could take apart, and choke on the filling, or be cut by a sharp internal part
- A mini-motorbike, with a poorly guarded drive chain, and badly insulated wiring next to the fuel tank
- A counterfeit Superman toy containing poisonous high-lead paint
- A skin cream-gel containing a dangerous fungus
"The increase in products withdrawn shows there is better surveillance and better enforcement, not necessarily that there are more unsafe toys on sale," said British trading standards officer, Christine Heemskerk, from Surrey.
Another factor was that countries which joined the EU in 2004 were now notifying Rapex about products on sale on their markets.
"Some of them had no controls at all in the past, and are only now getting to grips with the problem," she said.
When officials in one country report a dangerous product, the alert goes out to all 27 EU member states.
About 1,000 alerts were issued in 2006, about two-thirds of which originated in the UK, Germany, Hungary, Greece and Spain.
BANNED GOODS (2006)
Electrical appliances: 19%
Motor vehicles: 14%
Lighting equipment: 11%
Ms Heemskerk said that the high proportion of Chinese goods among those withdrawn said more about the volume of imports from China, than Chinese safety standards.
A European Commission source also said that China was co-operating with the EU by revoking export licences for some hazardous goods.
Britain was among a number of countries that had begun to co-operate more fully with the Rapex system, the source said, doubling the number of products it notified between 2005 and 2006.