09 June 2008 | Paul Snell
Small manufacturers and importers of goods from China are a "weak link" in the product safety supply chain, according to the EU.
A report, commissioned by European consumer affairs commissioner Meglena Kuneva and carried out by a group of independent experts, found smaller firms at both ends of the toy supply chain find it difficult to deal with safety issues because they lack in-depth knowledge about regulations and have fewer dedicated personnel and weaker quality systems.
This meant that in many cases the only safety guarantees imposed before products went to market were Chinese government export controls. There was also criticism that Chinese firms focus on US rather than EU regulations and standards.
"As a general rule one can say that the smaller the actor, the weaker its influence on the supply chain and consequently on product safety," the report said.
The study also expressed concerns over a lack of toy safety expertise in different areas of the EU, creating different levels of enforcement across the continent. "It is worrying that notified bodies seem in several cases to be struggling to properly fulfil their role," it said.
The report presented more than 50 recommendations to improve the safety of toys that could also apply to other products. Buyers were urged to ensure traceability in their supply chain, and share best practice with smaller firms and suppliers. Kuneva promised to analyse the recommendations and consult as to how to take them forward in the future.