EU, U.S. Warn China on Toy Safety Before Christmas

November 17, 2008

The consumer chiefs of the European Union and the United States called on China on Monday to crack down on unsafe products, especially toys, ahead of Christmas.

More than 20 million Chinese-made toys were recalled worldwide in 2007 due to unsafe features such as excessive levels of lead paint.

Beijing has faced the wrath of EU and U.S. lawmakers over other risky products ranging from milk and seafood to toothpaste and furniture.

“Over 50 percent of dangerous products notified during January to September originated from China (56 percent). This represents an increase compared to the first nine months of 2007, when 472 reported cases (47 percent) had China as the country of origin,” the European Commission said in a statement.

The EU’s executive Commission, which oversees product safety across the 27-member bloc, said one reason for the upsurge was “more effective market surveillance.”

But EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva and her U.S. counterpart Nancy Nord expressed concern over the numbers of unsafe products still reaching their markets.

“Since last year, there is quite a good improvement … but I cannot say for certain that Chinese toys are 100 percent safe this Christmas,” Kuneva told Reuters Television. “I will be telling member states to step up their surveillance ahead of Christmas with a view to cracking down on unsafe products.”

Both administrators warned parents under pressure from the economic downturn not to sacrifice safety when buying toys. “You can never count the cost of safety. I urge parents to check carefully, whether the toy costs one Euro or 100 Euros [$1.27 to $127],” Kuneva said.

Nord, chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, said: “Safety cannot be compromised, particularly where children are concerned. It is essential.”

Kuneva and Nord met their Chinese counterpart Wei Chuanzhong in Brussels on Monday to sign a trilateral agreement aimed at enforcing product safety standards and exchanging information on food safety.

“This agreement will allow us to make further progress in our bid to eradicate unsafe goods from China and will help us to exchange intelligence to find the source of these goods and prevent them from being sold,” Wei said.

(Editing by Andrew Roche)

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