Many illegal toys in the Netherlands: ‘Dangerous for children’

“The dangers of illegal toys are in all sorts of little corners: sharp edges, toxic materials, highly flammable items and above all: parts that come off easily. Small children put everything in their mouths and swallow it just like that.”

Emile Kalis, director of the Toy Netherlands Foundation, the trade association for toy companies, is using the news of the seized Huggy Wuggy cuddly toy to warn parents.

Fake from China

The requirements for legal toys are strict, he explains: “Toy manufacturers must have their product tested by independent agencies. If they offer that product in physical and online stores, they must demonstrate with the test report that it is safe. in the European Toy Law EN71.”

Nevertheless, there are many illegal toys in circulation, also in the Netherlands. So it is not safety tested. Last week, Customs announced that they had seized more than 130,000 counterfeit Huggy Wuggy plushies. “We found them in different planes,” said customs spokesman Pieter ten Broeke. “Last week we found a consignment of 15,000 of the stuffed animals. They were on their way from China to Italy.”

In total, customs has intercepted a whopping 884,678 toys since January 1, 2019, according to customs.

Advice, complaints and unsafe items

At SafetyNL (formerly known as Consumer and Safety) you will find tips and advice on safe toys. You can also find tips on playing outside safely on another page of this institution.

The Dutch Food and Consumer Safety Authority (NVWA) collects complaints and reports from the public about unsafe products, including toys. If necessary, the NVWA will have unsafe toys withdrawn from the market.

There is also an EU Commission website, Safety Gate, which shows all unsafe products with photos and descriptions.

Such untested cuddly toys also find their way to children in the Netherlands, according to Kalis from the industry association. “There’s usually a CE mark on it. They don’t have that quality mark at all, but yes, they just print it on the packaging and the labels. As a consumer, you can never tell if that quality mark is deserved.”

And, says Kalis, it cannot even be completely ruled out that such goods end up in ordinary Dutch shops. “The authorities simply cannot control everything. But there is constant control, even on goods that are already in the shops. So if you buy toys from an authorized shop in the Netherlands, you have the best guarantee that you are buying a safe product. .”

Ingestion of batteries

Mieke Cotterink, child safety expert at SafetyNL, is also aware of the problem with the CE mark. “That’s why I always say: If it’s so cheap it really can’t be done, it’s better to be safe.”

The difficulty, she adds, is that more and more brick-and-mortar stores are disappearing. “You are almost forced to buy toys online. But it is often not clear at all whether it is a Dutch or a foreign store. That makes it even more difficult.”

Cotterink also knows that illegal toys pose dangers. “To avoid the risk of suffocation, toys are banned in Europe to avoid the risk of suffocation. Some plastic has sharp edges if it breaks. Eyes can detach. And, also a notorious problem: the covers that hold batteries in the back. , can detach or break. If children swallow those batteries, it’s life-threatening. Approved toys are tested for this, but illegal toys are not.”

Many of these products – counterfeit and not tested for safety – are purchased by consumers themselves through foreign online stores such as Alibaba. “Search that site for Pokémon cards,” Kalis says. “You can even tell from the pictures that they’re fake. People buy it, but people don’t think enough about the risks. Your child puts it in their mouth. It’s dangerous.”

No supervision

Parents are insufficiently aware of such risks, he believes. “Many people think: if it enters the Netherlands, there will be supervision. But that is not necessarily the case.”

The latter confirms Pieter ten Broeke from customs: “We monitor all goods entering the Netherlands from countries outside the EU. But when it comes to counterfeiting, we only stop these shipments when a legitimate company with a patent on a certain article informs us . asking for it. If they didn’t ask for it, we’ll let it pass. We’ve been checking Huggy Wuggy since this summer.”

Pawns and dice

According to child safety expert Cotterink, the European rules for toys are in good order. “Especially the legislation for the category 0 to 3 years gets a lot of attention. You won’t find pawns or dice in it if everything goes well. That’s why my advice is always: pay close attention to the age statement on the toy.”

Cotterink encourages parents to be very attentive when there are children under 3 and older children in the house: “With a first child, parents are often very attentive. Problems arise when there are more children because the older children leave their toys . behind. lying around. Keep an eye on it.”

The financial aspect also plays a role for the industry association, Kalis acknowledges: “We also represent the financial interests of the toy manufacturers. Counterfeiting is theft.”

Last year, the profession had a turnover of around 800 million euros, he says. It is estimated that on top of that, 5 to 10 percent of Dutch people buy from foreign websites. “So you’re soon talking about 60 million euros a year.”

Toys included

In addition, the director also points to ethical objections to fake articles: “The toy industry is committed to sustainable products, and also to inclusive toys, so that no one feels left out. This is not the case with these kinds of pirates.”

Kalis is surprised that the batches of Huggy Wuggy’s are being transported via cargo plane. “It is much more expensive than per sea container. But apparently it is profitable even then, which strengthens our belief that there is something very wrong with the materials and construction.”

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