As Christmas nears, public warned vs improper labeling of hazardous toys for kids

Published December 7, 2021, 3:03 PM

by Aaron Recuenco 

For advocacy groups EcoWaste Coalition and the Laban Konsyumer Inc., the best gift that we could give to children this Christmas is their health safety.

That is why the two groups, which have been advocating the safety of products, are warning the public against the improper labeling of toys and other play objects by some of the erring manufacturers.

PLAY IT SAFE: With Christmas just around the corner, advocacy groups EcoWaste Coalition and Laban Konsyumer remind consumers to pick properly labeled and non-hazardous toys for children as they urge government regulators to enforce strict compliance to Republic Act 10620, or the Toy and Game Safety Labeling Act. (photo: Eco Waste Coalition)

But what disappointed both the EcoWaste Coalition and the Laban Konsyumer Inc. is the apparent lack of teeth of the national government to enforce the Republic Act 10620, or the Toy and Game Safety Labeling Act, which was supposed to protect children from potential hazards when it was signed into law and two years after its Implementing Rules and Regulations were belatedly promulgated.

“The results of our latest toy investigation attest to the sorry state of compliance to the requirements of RA 10620 and its IRR. It’s deeply concerning that till now consumers do not have easy access to properly labeled toys as guaranteed by law,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

He was referring to the test on assorted toys purchased from August to November 2021 from various retail establishments in 25 cities in Central Luzon, Calabarzon and Metro Manila, as well as from online dealers.

Based on the test, the EcoWaste Coalition revealed that only eight (four percent) of the 209 sampled toys are fully compliant to the labeling requirements for toys.

The group also found that 162 toys showed no LTO Number, 73 toys specified no age grading, 80 toys displayed no precautionary warnings, 175 toys provided no instructional literature, 149 toys stated no manufacturer’s markings, 149 toys lacked item model/SKU number; and, 21 toys had their labeling information written in foreign characters.

“An improper label is a red flag for probable quality and safety problems, including hidden hazards such as small parts, loose button batteries, leaded surface coatings, and endocrine disrupting substances, to cite a few,” he added.

For his part, Laban Konsyumer Inc. president Vic Dimagiba stressed that compliance to the mandatory toy labeling requirements has to be improved to serve the interest of consumers.

“We therefore urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to take all the necessary steps to put RA 10620 into force, including informing the public about the outcome of their compliance monitoring efforts,” he said.

“Complete, clear and readable labels are critical for identifying appropriate and non-hazardous toys. Labels can also serve as tools that consumers can use in the exercise of their right to seek redressal against unfair or unsatisfactory trade practices and other grievances,” Dimagiba added.

Dimagiba pointed out that the law also requires that the label must be generally written in English. Otherwise, a parallel translation in English or Filipino or both must be provided. The label must also be in a visible, easily legible, understandable and indelible form.

The deficient labeling information, according to the two groups, is an indication that a toy has no valid Certificate of Product Notification from the FDA and its use may pose health risks to consumers, the groups said.

The FDA has repeatedly warned potential hazards may come from ingredients that are not allowed to be part of a toy and childcare article product.

It stressed that the use of substandard and possibly adulterated toy and childcare article product may result to health risks including, but not limited to, endocrine disruption and reproductive or development effects; or may result to injury, choking or suffocation due to its small or broken parts.

As per RA 10620, toys and games not in conformity with the labeling and packaging requirements will be treated as “misbranded” or “banned hazardous substance” and “withdrawn from the market at the expense of the manufacturer or importer.”

Toy manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers found in violation of RA 10620 and its IRR will be fined not less than P10,000 but not more than P50,000, or imprisoned for not less than three months but not more than two years, or both, at the discretion of the court.