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Consumer bodies pressure Commission for stronger action on ‘slime’

Toy slime

EU consumer groups said it is "urgently necessary" that the European Commission takes on a "coordinating role" to ensure illegal products on the single market will "reliably" be removed by member states before more consumers buy them.

In a 14 December letter to DG Grow, Anec and Beuc said such a role is "essential" because "only 18 alerts" about dangerous slime toys have been uploaded to the Safety Gate – the EU rapid alert system (Rapex) – since the beginning of 2018. And yet several member states are increasingly detecting illegal chemicals in the products.

A coordinating position is vital, they said, because "responses given by economic operators and national authorities vary a lot across countries".

The appeal follows recent tests carried out by consumer associations from eight European countries, which found illegal levels of boron in over four pots of slime out of ten.

Manufacturers use boron to give slime a gelatinous texture. The substance is classified as an SVHC owing to its reprotoxic qualities and has potential hormone-disrupting effects.

Additionally the consumer groups said the Commission should ensure that signatories of the EU product safety pledge – four major online platforms – stop selling harmful slime toys, as established by the agreement signed in June.

Key findings

Consumer associations in different member states have investigated hazardous chemicals slime toys recently. These are:

  • AK Oberösterreich (Austria),
  • Forbrugerrådet Taenk (Denmark),
  • UFC-Que Choisir (France);
  • Stiftung Warentest (Germany);
  • Altroconsumo (Italy);
  • OCU (Spain);
  • Consumentenbond (the Netherlands); and
  • Which? (UK).

The most extreme cases showed levels of boron 14 times above the EU safety limit in samples on sale in France and Spain. In France out of 13 products tested in September three were found to be non-compliant, while Spain detected illegal levels of boron in two products out of ten tested in June.

In the most recent test conducted in November in Austria, four out of six products were found to be non-compliant. In the same month, Germany found that all five products it tested broke rules.

In the same month the Netherlands tested ten products and recorded that three of them contained illegal levels of boron. In October, Denmark found four non-compliant products out of 15. In June Italian inspectors found six out of 17 tested products to be non-compliant.

Meanwhile in the UK this month, consumer association Which? tested 13 toy slimes and putties from high street and online retailers including Amazon, eBay and Hamleys. It discovered 40% failed to meet the EU safety standard for toys.

In a previous test Which? found that eight out of 11 slime toys it examined exceeded the EU safety limit.

And the Norwegian Environmental Directorate recently removed some slime toys from the market after six out of 14 products exceeded the permitted limit.

Recent analysis from NGO the European Environmental Bureau showed that there have been more warnings for toys concerning chemical safety than any other product type this year.

In their letter, Anec and Beuc asked the Commission to forward their findings to the EU executive’s expert group on the safety of toys (ADCO-Toys) for "information and subsequent enforcement actions".

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