New EU toy directive ups safety requirements

An Expert's View about Arts, Entertainment and Recreation in China

Last updated: 27 Jun 2012

SGS representative Julian Kwok highlights the major changes brought by the TSD 2009/48/EC.

The recent implementation of the Toy Safety Directive 2009/48/EC has ushered in a stricter industry standard, increasing user protection further.

The regulation was published on June 30, 2009 in the Official Journal of the EU, with its first effectivity date on July 21, 2011. Since that time, all provisions of the ruling have been applicable except chemical requirements that will have a transitional period of four years or up to July 20, 2013.

The new directive contains a ban on carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic substances. This includes limiting the adoption of 66 allergenic fragrances and raising the number of restricted harmful chemicals from eight to 19.

Further, factories are required to draw up an EC Declaration of Conformity for each model. This, along with all technical documentation, will be kept on record by the supplier for 10 years after the item is placed on the market. The files should indicate product instructions and safety information.

Toy makers must ensure that releases are designed and fabricated in accordance with guidelines. A detailed description of the item and the manufacturing process should also be provided. Among the things it must cover are age-grading suitability and intended use.

In addition, a general depiction and colored picture of the model is required together with the factory and storage addresses. Moreover, packaging guides, testing reports and, if relevant, EC type examination certificates are needed.

Effects on China’s toy industry

Because China is the biggest toy exporter, the onus to ensure compliance is squarely placed on local toy manufacturers and indirectly on their importers. The country accounts for more than 70 percent of global supply. According to the China Toy and Juvenile Products Association, the nation exported $4.15 billion playthings in the first semester of 2011. The figure is 11 percent higher than a year earlier.
Suppliers, however, are set to face difficult times ahead because of weak demand and tougher safety provisions. The Christmas shopping period is imminent and waning orders from the EU and the US could dramatically diminish the performance of the industry.

The clock is also certainly ticking when it comes to full compliance with the latest EU standards. New requirements are already in force, with less than two years to go before provisions for chemical restrictions must be met.

Seen by many manufacturers as the toughest mandate so far, the directive is expected to increase companies’ investment in packaging, materials and environmental protection. This may inadvertently push up costs and squeeze profit margins, forcing factories to develop new designs to boost revenue. Suppliers have also been plagued by power and labor shortages. Together, these difficulties may well impede adherence to recent EU stipulations.

Apart from overseas regulations, the local toy industry has been complying with the China Compulsory Certification since early 2007. The CCC expanded as the market for the country’s play products flourished.

The certification system was set up after China signed a memorandum of understanding with the EU on Jan. 16, 2006. It highlighted the establishment of better communication and collaboration between both parties on general product and food safety, and sanitary and phytosanitary issues.

The CCC provides an opportunity for suppliers to improve the design, fabrication process and safety of their releases.

Manufacturers generally have to apply for a CCC mark before their goods are sold, marketed, imported or used for commercial purposes in China. All samples should be sent to approved testing institutes. These normally check for conformance to the National Safety Technical Code for toys or GB 6675, which is similar to the ISO 8124. Once results are positive, the models must be marked with the CCC label.

In mid-2007, however, domestically-made playthings became the focus of several high-profile recalls around the world. To address the issue, the country’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine created the Toy Recall Management Policy, which took effect August 2007.

Under the mandate, local authorities were required to strengthen their certification system and the inspection of goods for the overseas market, even from businesses that already have the CCC mark.

For preshipment declaration purposes, exporters have to provide customs with valid quality certificates and compliance declaration statements. These specify that products fulfill the safety requirements of the destination countries.

Manufacturers must also submit reports on the paint pigment used. In addition, key safety criteria such as small parts and lead content are strictly monitored and verified according to the stipulations and standards of the importing nation. If no specific guideline is given, China’s technical regulations will be utilized. This is done by means of enlarging the random test ratio.

Moreover, exported toys are to be examined in their country of production and with the associated customs. Verification from other countries is prohibited.

Further, the inspecting authority will ascertain that testing reports for outbound products must be issued within one year by CNAS or mutually recognized laboratories such as SGS CTS Shenzhen or Hong Kong.

In October 2010, mainland China’s Standardization Administration published a guideline limiting certain harmful substances in coatings used on children’s toys. It applies to all finishes, including solid paint and dried liquid films.

Moreover, releases will be tested at least once a year. Additional examination is required if there is a change in factory site, product formula, fabrication process, source of raw materials or after a three-month suspension of manufacture.

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Posted: 22 December 2011, last updated 27 June 2012

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