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Importing Toys – A Guide To Product Safety Regulations
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1:04 pm
April 1, 2013


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Article by Vicky Walmsley owner of Risus Wholesale,

Event Smiles and Archie’s Toy Box

 

 

In recent years it has become extremely easy to import from China and many people do it very successfully. One area that is much more difficult to get right is toys. People seem to think it is simply a case of finding a supplier, sticking a CE mark on the toys and shipping them over. Not true I’m afraid! It is much more complicated than that and although I am no expert I will try and outline some of the rules and regulations below in the hopes that it helps a few people out.

Importing toys is by no means impossible but it is not for the faint hearted either. I would suggest that it is not for the ‘casual’ importer as the costs involved in testing and the relatively small quantities being ordered will automatically make you more expensive than someone selling toys sourced from UK suppliers. If you are still determined to bring toys into the EU yourself then here is a brief outline of some of the things you need to be aware of.

1. Is My Item A ‘Toy’?
This may seem like a silly question but not everything is a toy and therefore some items are exempt from the regulations. A toy is classed as something intended for use in play by children under the age of 14. It is a bit of a minefield and if you are unsure then it is always a good idea to get professional advice. Some examples of ‘non toys’ are – childrens fashion jewellery, bicycles with a saddle height over 435mm, video games, detailed scale models (aimed at collectors), toy steam engines etc.

2. CE Marking
The CE mark has been in use since the early 90’s but there is still huge confusion about when it should be used and what it stands for. Firstly, it should always be accompanied by the importers business name and postcode. This is required by law to identify the importer should there be a problem with the toy, without this information you would be breaking the law.

The CE mark is NOT a European safety marker, it is essentially a declaration by the importer that the item conforms to the relevant safety regulations. The importer is obliged to hold a technical file (more on this later) detailing the items conformity.

Many Chinese suppliers will offer to mark your toys with a CE mark as a matter of procedure but this is meaningless unless it is backed up by genuine test reports and documentation. Basically, many suppliers will tell you whatever you want to hear if it means they will get a sale!

3. Safety Testing
Toy safety testing is split into 11 parts under the 1988 EEC toy safety directive and items imported into the EU must comply to all relevant parts –

  • EN 71-1: Mechanical and physical properties
  • EN 71-2: Flammability
  • EN 71-3: Specification for migration of certain elements
  • EN 71-4: Experimental sets for chemistry and related activities
  • EN 71-5: Chemical toys (sets) other than experimental sets
  • EN 71-6: Graphical symbols for age warning labelling
  • EN 71-7: Finger paints
  • EN 71-8: Swings, slides and similar activity toys for indoor and outdoor family domestic use
  • EN 71-9: Organic chemical compounds – Requirement
  • EN 71-10: Organic chemical compounds – Sample preparation and extraction
  • EN 71-11: Organic chemical compounds – Methods of analysis

Importers must hold certificates (ideally no older than 2 years) from an accredited test house either in the UK or Far East. The most well known of the Chinese test houses is SGS but beware of certificates supplied by manufacturers in China as I have seen many faked reports that are either contain falsified information of don’t even pertain to the item in question.

If you are in any doubt about what you need to test for then it is always best to have your toys tested by a UK test house, it may be more expensive but at least you will have peace of mind and you won’t find yourself in court. Or worse still you could have the injury or death of a child on your conscience!

Another pitfall you need to be aware of, which is a favoured trick of the unscrupulous supplier, is the switcheroo! Picture the situation – You order some samples of a painted wooden toy and you pay a few hundred quid to test the paint. It passes and all is fine but then when your stock arrives you get pulled by trading standards for lead filled paint. The factory has used cheaper lead based paint and you are the one to face the music. To avoid this there is only one real solution and that is to spend more money and test production and not pre-production samples. This mainly applies to painted items, or items with liquid in like bubble solution.

Lastly there is one other very important chemical that you make sure is not present in any of your items. This applies to plastic as the chemical, Phthalate , is basically a plastic softener used in all sorts of toys for giving toys that soft, rubbery feeling. It has been linked to cancer and it banned in all forms. If you import plastic toys you MUST make sure that it has not been used and you must back it up with a test report. Non-phthalate material is slightly more expensive to use so if your supplier is offering very cheap toys then there is a good chance that they are using the cheaper phthalate material.

4. Labelling
There are very strict rules on the labelling of toys, including what size and font the CE mark should be. Basically it should look like this –

CE symbol

Some of the strictest regulations cover toys for under 3’s and it can sometimes be difficult to work out what is or isn’t suitable. The toy industry uses an item called a ‘choke tube’ that is essentially a plastic tube designed to mimic the size of a childs throat. If a toy, or part of aa toy that can be detached, fits entirely into the tube then it is classed and a choking hazard and is not suitable for children under the age of 3.

test for toy safety

 

If a toy is unsuitable for under 3’s then this symbol must be displayed –

not suitable for children under 3

Other labelling specifics cover things like – magnets, balloons, small parts, long cord warnings and many, many others. Once again it is worth seeking professional advice as non compliance to these regulations can land you in hot water.

Summation and Disclaimer
What I have outlined above is a very simplistic view of toy safety and in reality it is much, much more complicated. The official guide is many hundreds of pages long and in much greater detail. I haven’t even touched on the subjects of acoustic and electronic toys, WEEE and Rohs regulations!

Please do take anything I have said above as gospel, regulations can and do change on a regular basis so professional help is always advisable. If you need a reputable UK test house then I am happy to recommend - http://nthleicester.com/

 

Written by Vicky Walmsley.

Risus Ltd, run by Vicky Walmsley is committed to supplying a large range of toys, novelties, wedding supplies and party goods at affordable prices to a wide variety of customers.

We have a retail website launching at the end of August to supply Mums with party bag toys and party supplies – http://www.archiestoybox.co.uk

We also run a wholesale business for customers who wish to buy in bulk for retail shops, fund raising events, school PTA’s or Ebay selling – http://www.risuswholesale.co.uk

Find us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/RisusWholesale and http://www.facebook.com/ArchiesToyBox

 

Other articles by Vicky Walmsley:

10 Things That You Can Actively Do To Increase Your Chances of Success in Business

Thinking of Starting a Business? – A Guide For Newbies

The 10 Deadly Sins Made By Business Start Ups

A Guide to Using LinkedIn to Further your Business Network

Small Business Legal Guide – Insurance, Licences, Health & Safety, Data Protection and more

A Guide to Company Registration, VAT, Tax and Employment

 

Other articles about business

 

Click to see more articles on morethanmummies.com

Would you like to write an article for morethanmummies.com? Click here to find out more

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