EU, U.S. seek new global toy safety standard

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union and the United States want new global toy safety rules to stem a surge of dangerous exports from countries like China, EU officials said.

The EU’s consumer and enterprise chiefs will hold talks with U.S. counterparts in Washington on Friday to agree the worldwide standards following the recall of millions of Chinese-made toys in the last six months.

A new global safety mark is one of the ideas under discussion, according to EU officials and industry sources.

European and U.S. lawmakers have criticized current regulations, stoking fears of reduced consumer confidence ahead of the lucrative Christmas retail period.

Mattel Inc -- the world’s largest toymaker -- has recalled over 21 million products in the last four months due to excessive levels of lead paint and other unsafe components.

Its latest recall came on Tuesday when it withdrew 170,000 Mexican-made toys.

“We will be trying to make sure we are both on the same sheet of paper,” an EU official said of Friday’s meeting.

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“If the EU and the U.S. can agree a regulatory framework, then this in essence becomes the global standard and forces other countries like China to follow suit. That’s our aim,” he told Reuters.


U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers have called for the resignation of the chief U.S. product safety regulator, while members of the European Parliament have called for a ban on Chinese-made toys until the situation improves.

“A new global mark is the only way forward from industry’s point of view and we have had a positive response to this idea on both sides of the Atlantic,” one senior industry source told Reuters

“Toy companies are global companies and cannot work with different rules in different regions. It also means if we do this, the Chinese will then have to come on board, they will have no choice but to sign up.”

Leading toymakers such as Mattel Inc, Hasbro and Hornby are also said to favor a new independent global body to police a new global standard.

A shopper select toys at a store in Shanghai August 24, 2007. The European Union and the United States want new global toy safety rules to stem a surge of dangerous exports from countries like China, EU officials said. REUTERS/Aly Song

“This must be a fully independent and tough regulatory body,” another industry source said.

Sources within the European Commission, which oversees EU consumer safety rules, said Brussels favors such an approach and is currently looking at introducing a new standard similar to Germany’s “GS” safety mark.

This new stamp of approval would replace the EU’s current “CE” mark which manufacturers need to trade across the 27-member bloc.

The CE label is self-regulated and is only questioned if there are complaints about the product, while the German label is awarded through an independent certified monitoring authority.

“The Commission are considering an additional safety mark, such as a “CE+” mark which would strengthen the current CE mark,” a Commission source said.

Editing by David Cowell