April 3, 2008 / 5:26 PM / 12 years ago

INTERVIEW-U.S. consumer czar eyes global toy safety standard


By Darren Ennis

BRUSSELS, April 3 (Reuters) - The European Union should follow the United States in introducing a new mandatory safety standard for toys if the bloc wants to curb the number of unsafe products entering its market, the U.S. consumer chief said.

Washington has proposed a stricter, independently verified regulation for toys following a spate of recalls — mostly Chinese goods — in 2007. Brussels is toying with the idea of replacing its industry-regulated "CE" mark.

"The EU should look to the U.S., where a new safety mark for children’s products is going through Congress," Nancy Nord, chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, told Reuters on Thursday during a visit to Brussels.

European and U.S. lawmakers have criticised current regulations in the wake of the recall of over 20 million toys worldwide last year due to excessive levels of lead paint and other unsafe components.

EU consumer groups have urged that the CE mark — which is questioned only if a product draws complaints — be abolished in favour of a new, stricter standard awarded by an independent regulator.

Leading toymakers such as Mattel Inc MAT.N, Hasbro HAS.N and Hornby (HRN.L) are said to favour an independent global mark, but differ over its scope and how it should be policed.

"One of the main reasons for the recalls has been the fact that manufacturers have been manufacturing to different standards in different markets," Nord said.

"But a global standard would go a long way to tightening up these loopholes, meaning companies could produce in a consistent and harmonised fashion."



CE PLUS

EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva backed the idea of a trans-Atlantic standard, which she said would force countries such as China to follow suit.

"I will be giving my political backing for such a standard because both industry and more importantly the consumer will benefit from such a move," Kuneva said following a meeting with Nord.

Sources within the European Commission, which oversees EU consumer safety rules, said Brussels was mulling a new standard similar to Germany’s "GS" safety mark.

Such a new stamp — known as "CE PLUS" — would replace the EU’s CE mark, which manufacturers need to trade across the 27-member bloc. The German label is awarded through an independent and certified monitoring authority.

A new toy standard is due to be discussed at a high-level meeting of EU and U.S. officials in Brussels in June. (Editing by Dale Hudson)



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