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European parliamentary report demonstrates tough stance on proposed toy safety Directive
European toy sellers have been waiting with some trepidation for the European Parliament’s report demanding amendments to the Commission’s proposed new Directive on the safety of toys. Rapporteur Marianne Thyssen, responsible for drafting the report on behalf of the parliamentary Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, has pulled no punches in coming up with a hard-hitting draft text, designed to protect consumers to the full. In her own words, “children, as the most vulnerable of all consumers, must be given the fullest protection possible”.
The Commission’s initial proposal, issued on 25 January 2008, contains entirely new provisions devoted specifically to “importers”, who are defined as persons placing toys from a third country on the Community market. As such, sellers who import toys from mainland China and Hong Kong will have to ensure compliance with such provisions. The parliamentary draft report has requested amendments which make the obligations clearer and tougher.
Other draft requests for amendment, which are targeted at the current weaknesses of the toy safety Directive, would ban all allergenic substances, and all carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic (CMR) substances with only very limited exceptions, from use in toys. They would likewise ban certain types of toys which do not also comply with other legislation, including the cosmetics Directive and the Directive on materials intended to come into contact with foods. A more detailed description is provided below.
While the Commission proposal requires importers to “act with due care in relation to the applicable requirements” of the Directive, the parliamentary report demands this be replaced with: “Importers shall place only compliant toys on the Community market”. They must also “ensure” that the relevant conformity assessment procedure has been carried out by the manufacturer (rather than merely “verify” this, which is in the Commission’s proposal).
Furthermore, the parliamentary text demands that where the toy presents a risk, the importer “shall inform the manufacturer and the market surveillance authorities to that effect.” As for in-pack information, the report has brought in new draft wording, requesting that importers be made responsible for ensuring that toys are “accompanied by instructions and safety information in a language which can be easily understood by consumers”. New wording also demands that when appropriate with regard to the risks presented by a toy, importers shall carry out sample testing of toys being marketed, keep a register of complaints, non-conforming toys and recalls, and keep distributors informed of such monitoring.
As regards the proposed Directive’s requirement of an EC declaration of conformity, the parliamentary report would like a specific (yet undisclosed) model to be followed, containing elements of modules (which, presumably, would set out the elements of compliance for the toys concerned by the declaration). As for the conformity assessments themselves, the request made is to ensure that conformity assessment bodies, in performing their activities, take account of, among others, the size of an undertaking, the product’s technology, and the mass or serial nature of the production process, while always respecting “the degree of rigour and the level of protection required for the compliance of the toy” under the Directive.
Where a toy is deemed unsafe, the parliamentary report wants Member States to ensure that “appropriate measures are taken”, and these include “withdrawal of the toy from their market, without delay.”
Concerning carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic (CMR) substances, the Commission proposal bans categories 1 and 2 of such substances in toys, unless their use has been evaluated as safe under a committee procedure, there are no suitable alternatives, and they are not prohibited for use in consumer articles under the REACH legislation. The parliamentary report requests that CMR category 3 be added to this provision. Hong Kong traders familiar with chemicals may already know that category 1 comprises those substances which are known to be CMR, category 2 comprises those which should be regarded as if they are CMR, while category 3 comprises substances which cause concern owing to possible CMR effects, but for which there is no adequate proof of such effects.
The parliamentary report also requests that a provision on toys or their parts, that are designed to be placed in the mouth regardless of age group, be added. Such toys (such as toy musical instruments and teething rings), the report demands, must be made to satisfy the requirements on migration limits for the packaging of food, as laid down in the relevant EU Regulation (1935/2004). For toys that are designed to come into frequent contact with the skin, such as finger paints or modelling clays, these must, it is requested, comply with the requirements on composition and labelling under the cosmetics Directive.
As for the allergenic fragrances contained in the Commission’s proposal, the parliamentary report wants all of them banned, only stating that “the presence of traces of these substances shall be allowed”, as long as their presence is technically unavoidable in good manufacturing practice.
Once the requests for amendment are endorsed, in first reading, by the European Parliament, the Council of Member States’ ministers will have to arrive at a political agreement, including on the parliamentary requests for amendment. Needless to say, should all the amendments be acceptable to the Member States, the toy industry, including Hong Kong’s toy exporters, will face an uphill struggle in ensuring full compliance with the new legal provisions. Sources at the European Parliament have confirmed that the EU Institutions are hoping to reach agreement on the text of the new Directive before the end of this year.
The Commission’s initial proposal and European Parliament report discussed above can be found via the following link (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/ficheprocedure.do?id=558823)

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