Toymakers Back Sensible Global Safety Standard

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Global toymakers want safety standards, but are worried about the scope and policing of such an endeavor.

BRUSSELS, April (Reuters) - Top toymakers backed plans on Wednesday for a mandatory global safety standard for toys to prevent unsafe products from reaching the consumer, but said it must not be a barrier to innovation or entry into the market.

The European Union is mulling new legislation in the area of toy safety, while the United States has proposed a stricter, independently verified regulation for toys following a spate of recalls -- mostly of Chinese goods -- in 2007.

Brussels and Washington are due to hold talks in June in a bid to reach a trans-Atlantic agreement, which they hope could pave the way for a global safety mark.

Leading toymakers such as Mattel Inc (MAT.N: Quote, Profile, Research), Hasbro (HAS.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Hornby (HRN.L: Quote, Profile, Research) said they favor an independent global standard, but are concerned over its scope and how it should be policed.

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

Hornby and Lego -- Europe's biggest toymaker -- expressed some concern that any new legislation could hinder their industry's future.

"We have concerns about the scope and any overzealous adoption of any new regulation which might prevent competition in the market," Hornby chief executive Frank Martin told Reuters following a meeting of Europe's major toymakers in Brussels.

Lego CEO, Jorgen V Knudstorp said: "We must make sure this is sensible legislation. We have concerns that these rules, if not properly thought through could damage new innovation and new producers."

European and U.S. lawmakers have criticized 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.

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

Most toymakers said they favored an independent body to award the new standard.

"We are in favor of a global standard supplied by a trusted authority. We do not favor either third party or government authorities. Once they do the job properly," Knudstorp said.

However U.S. companies said they favor an independent third party and are opposed to any authority set up by the EU's executive Commission or any U.S. federal agency.

"We prefer a more transparent approach," Carter Keithley, president of the U.S. Toy Industry Association said.

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.

(Editing by Andrew Hurst)

This article was originally published on 2008-04-09
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