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what to pay attention to before buying?

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With the holidays approaching, the choice of a toy also depends on its safety. While the industry is highly regulated, some unsafe or non-compliant products may slip through the cracks. Here’s how to avoid them.

While Saint-Nicolas is preparing to drop off his presents and we imagine Santa Claus in full preparation, the issue of toy safety remains a point not to be overlooked. In any case, this is what a survey by the FPS Economy, made public on Monday and carried out in 2021 in Belgian points of sale, has just recalled. Of the twenty toys checked by the public service, eighteen were non-compliant and four were even withdrawn from sale. “For the latter, we have noted an overrun of the maximum levels provided for certain chemical substances, which may prove to be carcinogenic, reprotoxic, mutagenic or simply allergenic”, explains Etienne Mignolet, the spokesperson for the FPS Economy. The rest of the problematic products had administrative non-conformities (shortcomings in the list of substances and materials, safety assessment, etc.), which did not necessarily pose a danger to the child. “On the other hand, we checked toys on which we already had suspicions”, delays Etienne Mignolet, the spokesman of the FPS Economy. Don’t panic on board, then.

The essential CE mark

But still, how can you be sure that a toy is compliant and does not pose a problem? “The key is the CE marking. It is an obligation for the manufacturer to declare that the product it places on the market complies with all safety requirements. It’s a kind of prior self-checking before marketing”. Particular attention should be paid to toys for children under three, which should be free of small parts that can be removed and ingested (choking remains the most common cause of toy-related deaths.) These toys for children smaller ones also cannot have sharp ends and they must be unbreakable. As a general rule, the FPS Economy also advises to beware of noisy toys, which can be dangerous for children’s ears (but all that is regulated), as well as those that are too perfumed or give off “strange smells”. Finally, it is always to remember that the toys chosen must be adapted to the age of the child. Easy, it is specified on the packaging. For the little ones, it’s even more explicit with the mention “not suitable for children under 3 years old” affixed to the toy, accompanied by a description of the danger.

Favor known stores

Fairs, markets or non-European websites (Chinese in particular) are all places where we are more likely to come across unpleasant surprises. Where to buy for more security? The rule is somewhat the same for most online purchases. “We must promote well-known and trusted websites and stores,” says Etienne Mignolet. The price also often ensures a certain guarantee. “But there really isn’t a correlation between cheap toys and poor quality or danger. However, the toys for which there is a problem are cheap products”.

Note that each toy is not systematically checked in Belgium, the checks are punctual and random. Each year, the FPS Economy thus carries out a series of campaigns, sometimes with specific targets. “Here, we focused more on the aspects of chemical substances. But we can also carry out checks on toys for children under three or specifically on markets. Sometimes we also take part in campaigns decided by Europe”.

Connected toys and abuses related to privacy

They have been hitting the shelves in recent years. Connected toys are attracting more and more children. Not physically dangerous, they do however present another type of risk, pointed out by Test Achats: respect for the privacy of children. The consumer defense association notably warned against several “e-robots”, connected to the internet and which interacted with children via a voice recognition system. For one of them, the interaction went through a specialized American company that decrypted the words and sent responses. For others, it was possible to take control of the little robot thanks to a simple mobile phone, or even sometimes to get in touch with the child.

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