Spielwarenmesse: Interview DVSI: Baby and toddler products are really safe

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Interview DVSI: Baby and toddler products are really safe

from Harald Hemmerlein

The safety of toys is regularly inspected by testing institutes and consumer protection organisations. Consumers are especially sensitive when it comes to products for babies and toddlers. This concern is usually unjustified since a lot of harmful substances and dangerous softeners are forbidden in toys and there are very clear guidelines. Susanne Braun, Senior Technical Advisor at the German Toy Industry Federation (Deutscher Verband der Spielwarenindustrie, DVSI), explained in an interview why unsafe toys have no place in the toy trade.

Spielwarenmesse®: Parents who are buying toys for their baby for the first time are particularly sensitive when it comes to safety. Every year in the run-up to Christmas, consumer protectionists inform the media about alleged blatant and sensational flaws in toy safety. This means of course that also toy sellers have to listen to a lot of worried customers. What credible arguments should these retailers use to reassure their customers?

Susanne Braun: The DVSI has 230 members covering 80% of toys in Germany and represents a great majority of toy manufacturers in Germany. We can assure you that these manufacturers handle baby and toddler products with the same sensitivity and care as conscientious parents, starting with the design and of course during the development and production stages.

Our members select suitable materials extremely carefully, appoint recognised and professional testing institutes to carry out a wide range of tests for harmful substances of all kinds and continually invest in the basic and further training of their employees in the area of toy safety and quality management.

The Toys Safety Directive 2009/48/EC has been applicable in Germany and Europe since 2009 and assures the very highest level of toy safety. All toys that are sold on the German market must comply with this directive. The CE mark on the toys is the proof of compliance.

As soon as any new information is found that gives rise to concerns about substances used, a ban or strict limits are immediately implemented (comitology procedure) which DVSI members and all other toy manufacturers must comply with.

In addition, there are many requirements and specific limits for chemical substances in toys for children under 3 years old or for toys that children are supposed to put in their mouths.

Parents, as well as anyone else buying or giving toys as presents, can rest assured that the sets of laws, regulations, directives and standards in use in Germany do not allow any unsafe toys!

Please also remember that magazines, that often consider themselves as consumer protection bodies, unfortunately sometimes apply their own, self-defined standards and therefore unsettle concerned parents.

With their constant revisions of safety standards, the authorities are not only a source of joy for the industry and trade. What are the current topics that are causing controversy?

S.B.: The greatest source of controversy at the moment is the further reduction in the limits for lead by a factor of 7. Due to a mathematical error when setting the old values, these are already 7 times too strict. Unfortunately, despite evidence provided by the DVSI and the European toy federation TIE, this has been entirely ignored by the European Commission.

A further reduction could mean that entire product groups would disappear from the market, such as the popular finger paints: These contain potato starch, for example. Depending on where the potatoes are grown and the soil quality, a small percentage of natural lead can be found in the products which is not dangerous but is now in danger!

Theoretically, all manufacturers of baby and toddler products in all supplier countries are responsible for ensuring that they comply with the safety directives. Does this happen in practice or are there standards that apply across borders?

S.B.: As I have already explained, the EC directive 2009/48/EC applies all over Europe and each country has to implement it in a national law. In Germany it has been implemented through the Second Regulation to the Product Safety Act (Regulation Concerning the Safety of Toys).

The industry is also aware of country-specific regulations, for example the deviating stricter norms for lead or N-nitrosamines in Germany. In the USA there are also individual regulations specific to some states, but manufacturers are regularly informed about these. Advice can be obtained from the DVSI and national European federations with whom we cooperate closely as well as the testing institutes with whom we are in constant contact.

Sometimes market supervisory agencies take samples from the the trade and test them. Test results that come to the attention of the authorities quickly find themselves in the notorious early warning RAPEX system. What happens then?

S.B.: RAPEX lists products that present a serious risk. It should be remembered that two thirds of the listed toys originate from China and have reached Europe through irresponsible dealers. It is very important for us to emphasise here that 95.5 % of the brands reported are not toys from DVSI members but come from manufacturers who are unknown to us and who do not comply with the German and European regulations.

Irrespective of this, all toy manufactures should have a preventative recall management system in place and react quickly if necessary. If there is a product recall, the product should then be modified so that it is safe in the future and any faults in construction and materials are remedied.

Discover trends and new toys from the baby and infant articles product group live at the Spielwarenmesse® 2017 and find out more about safety standards at the Testing & Inspecting Center. Buy your tickets now at an advance booking price!


Author of this article:

Harald Hemmerlein

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