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EU plans tougher toy safety rules

Chinese-made toy removed by Mattel in August 2007 (Mattel/PA)
Millions of Chinese-made toys were removed from EU shelves last year

New measures to tighten toy safety standards have been backed in the European Parliament, making their early passage into EU law more likely.

The new rules for toy firms will ban chemicals that can cause cancer or genetic changes, allergenic fragrances and parts that can choke children.

About 80% of toys on sale in the EU come from China. Millions of Chinese-made toys were recalled in 2007.

A Labour MEP said EU toy safety rules were 20 years old and needed updating.

The MEP, Arlene McCarthy, chairs the parliament's internal market and consumer protection committee, which backed the legal changes on Thursday.

MEPs hope to fast-track the legislation to get it enacted early next year. They are amending revised toy safety standards proposed by the European Commission. A full vote in the parliament is expected on 16 December.

Under the new rules, importers will be responsible for ensuring that toys they bring into the EU are safe.

Under an EU rapid alert system set up in 2004, a dangerous product identified in one EU member country already triggers an alert throughout Europe.

Among the dangers highlighted by Mrs McCarthy are small but powerful magnets which can be swallowed by children, with potentially fatal consequences.

The Conservatives' internal market spokesman, Malcolm Harbour MEP, backed the new rules, saying they "significantly enhance toy safety for children and will not limit the choice of well-designed, safe toys by overly restrictive standards".

"It was important for us that we did not burden responsible producers, who have comprehensive quality and safety procedures, with unnecessary red tape," he said.

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