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Conference highlights new US Product Safety Regulations for Hong Kong SMEs

From left to right: Philip Bullock, Technical Manager, Intertek UK; Zhang Xiao-lue, Chief Director, Guangdong Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau, PRC; Liu Xiang, Vice Director, Defective Product Administrative Centre, General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, PRC; David Chu, Chairman, Hong Kong Toys Manufacturers' Association; Jeffrey Lam, Chairman, Panel on Economic Affairs, Legislative Council; Rita Lau Ng Wai-lan, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development; Wong Tit-shing, Chairman, Toys Advisory Committee, HKTDC; Lawrence Chan, Chairman, Hong Kong Toys Council; Dennis Yau, Director-General, Federation of Hong Kong Industries; Richard O'Brien, Director, Office of International Programmes and Intergovernmental Affairs, USA; Richard Powell, Senior Representative, US Customs and Border Protection.
Richard O'Brien
Zhang Xiao-lue
Liu Xiang

8 January 2009 – In recent years, product safety has become a major concern for the toys industry, so much so that relevant laws are being amended around the world in an effort to protect consumer interests and ensure children's health.

At the Hong Kong Toys Industry Conference 2009 - "Latest Product Safety Directives of the Toys Industry" hosted by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) yesterday, the latest policies schemes were presented to help raise product quality in the industry. Attending the Conference were officials and industry leaders from the Chinese mainland, the US and Europe.

Jointly organised by the HKTDC, Hong Kong Toys Manufacturers' Association and the Hong Kong Toys Council and sponsored by the SME Development Fund of the Trade and Industry Department, the Conference drew the participation of about 500 toy manufacturers.

To raise the safety requirements for children's products, the US Congress passed the amendments to the "Consumer Product Safety Act" at the end of 2007. In August last year, the "Consumer Product Safety Modernisation Act" was formally signed by President George W. Bush.

According to Richard O'Brien, Director of the Office of International Programmes and Intergovernmental Affairs, US Consumer Product Safety Commission, the toys safety standard ASTM F963-07 will become a mandatory consumer product safety standard beginning 10 February 2009. The standard will set limits on lead content and other heavy metals (antimony, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, mercury and selenium). It will also require mandatory third party testing for certain children's products.

Mr O'Brien said that "it will be an offence to manufacture, import or sell children's toys or child care articles containing 0.1 per cent or more of DEHP, DBP and BBP. The US government will also impose a temporary ban on the sale of children's toys or child care articles which can be placed in mouths and contain 0.1 per cent or more of DINP, DIDP or DNOP."

DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DIDP and DNOP are all phthalates mainly used in converting polyvinyl chloride (PVC) from a hard plastic to a flexible plastic. They are controversial chemical compounds and a lot of studies to evaluate the hazards they pose to human health and the environment are still underway.

Mr O'Brien further pointed out that, beginning 14 August this year, the US will implement a new regulation requiring "tracking labels" in all children's products and packaging to clearly reveal to consumers product information such as the place and date of manufacturing and the production batch number. He called on the toys sector to air their opinions so that the new act will strike a balance between protecting child safety and allowing flexibility in its implementation.

Zhang Xiao-lue, Chief Director of Guangdong Entry-Exit Inspection & Quarantine Bureau, PRC, told the Conference that an additional 218 manufacturers had been granted quality licences for exporting toys this year, making the number of licence holders 1,175 in total. He said that as a result of the conscientious efforts in rectification and reforms in the toys industry, the quality of export toys had improved and the number of complaints on non-compliant toys was reduced. "So far in 2008, there were 67 cases of non-compliant toys filed with the Guangdong Bureau, of which 20 cases originated from the US. This is a drop of 17 per cent from a year earlier,'' he said.

Mr. Zhang further elaborated that these cases of non-compliant toys involved choking hazards caused by small parts (33%), exceeding heavy metal limits in paint coatings (26%), exceeding of phthalates limits (16%) and causing bodily harm, injuries, fires and burns (25%).

He suggested that, in view of the new round of product safety policies, enterprises should ensure product exports by producing high-tech children's products. This can be achieved by initiating research and development to improve production processes and by continuously upgrading product formulae by the use of new environmentally friendly raw materials.

He said that "for consumer products destined for the US, the manufacturers concerned should strictly control the raw materials used. They should prevent the use of raw materials containing banned material, be prepared to meet the new US requirements on labelling for consumer products and ready themselves for certification and testing by third parties."

On the other hand, in the "Regulations on the Administration of Children's Toys Recall" promulgated for implementation by the Central Government last August, there are 10 articles related to the toys industry. In the case of defected products, the manufacturer(s) concerned should carry out their own investigation and product recall, while sellers would also have a duty to help in the investigation. Liu Xiang, Vice Director of the Defective Product Administrative Centre, General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection & Quarantine, PRC, revealed that in addition to redoubling its efforts in publicising relevant laws, establishing information systems and developing manufacturing safety standards, the government will help the toy industry in filing the details of their products.

The keynote speaker for the event was Rita Lau Ng Wai-lan, Secretary of Commerce & Economic Development. Other speakers included Philip Bullock, Technical Manager of Intertek UK; Richard Powell, Senior Representative of US Customs and Border Protection; Wong Tit-shing, Chairman of HKTDC's Toys Advisory Committee; and Lawrence Chan, Chairman of the Hong Kong Toys Council.

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Established in 1966, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) is the international marketing arm for Hong Kong-based traders, manufacturers and service providers. With more than 40 offices worldwide, including 11 in the Chinese mainland, the HKTDC promotes Hong Kong as a platform for doing business with China and Asia. The HKTDC also organises trade fairs and business missions to connect companies with opportunities in Hong Kong and the mainland, while providing information via trade publications, research reports and online. For more information, www.hktdc.com



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