If you are a toy manufacturer looking to sell products in the UK, understanding and navigating the country's toy safety regulations is essential. Familiarity with the testing process and any regulatory standards imposed on toy manufacturers can protect you from lawsuits and help get your product to market quicker.
In this blog post, we'll discuss the UK's framework for ensuring toy safety by examining the major regulations governing toy products. Overall, the UK follows the strictest set of safety standards globally (originally developed by the EU), and compliance is attained through rigorous product testing. It’s important to understand these standards before developing any toy product that is meant to be sold to or manufactured in the UK.
The UK has strict toy safety standards that regulate the country’s toy market.
EN71 is the comprehensive standard that covers toys marketed within and to the UK.
Supplemental standards have been developed for electronic toys.
Third-party testing is required for all toys sold in the UK.
Harmful chemicals have been found in toys for decades and are still being discovered on retail shelves today. These substances can cause birth defects and severe damage to the brain and nervous system in children if exposed. Consumer protection groups have repeatedly raised the alarm about high levels of lead, nickel, and phthalates in toys sold in the UK. Such discoveries can lead to recalls, fines, and in some cases jail sentences for toy manufacturers and affiliated suppliers. This can damage a company’s reputation and cause significant issues within a supply chain.
While this might feel overly punitive to some, the EU’s regulatory standards were established for important reasons. As a toy manufacturer, taking a ‘safety first’ approach will save you time and money, and support the safety of your customers. If you are selling or manufacturing in the UK market, the first step is to understand what regulations apply to you and your supply chain.
EN71 is the primary toy safety standard that is mandated to protect the consumer market in the UK. It is a comprehensive standard that was developed by the EU in 1990 and has been updated over the years to keep up with evolving regulatory and environmental events. After the UK decided to leave the EU, it chose to keep EN71 as its toy safety standard and strengthened it by adding processes to streamline and bolster the enforcement of the standard. Manufacturers or suppliers aiming to sell children's toys in the UK must comply with all standards and regulations within EN71. There are some parts of the EN71 standard, however, that are not mandatory, including EN71-6, -9, -10, and -11.
As one of the toughest toy safety standards in the world, the EN71 places safety requirements for toys meant for children less than 14 years old. These toys include, but are not limited to:
Soft Toys (i.e. stuffed animals)
Arts and Crafts
EN71 testing covers several categories: harmful chemical migration, flammability, and mechanical and physical properties. The standard has been divided into fourteen parts:
EN 71-1: Mechanical and physical properties
EN 71-2: Flammability
EN 71-3: Specification for migration of certain elements
EN 71-4: Experimental sets for chemistry and related activities
EN 71-5: Chemical toys (sets) other than experimental sets
EN 71-6: Graphical symbols for age warning labeling
EN 71-7: Finger paints
EN 71-8: Swings, slides, and similar activity toys for indoor and outdoor family domestic use
EN 71-9: Organic chemical compounds – Requirement
EN 71-10: Organic chemical compounds – Sample preparation and extraction
EN 71-11: Organic chemical compounds – Methods of analysis
EN 71-12: N-Nitrosamines and N-Nitrosatable Substances
EN 71-13: Olfactory board games, cosmetic kits, and gustative games
EN 71-14: Trampolines for domestic use
There are some exclusions to EN71 that fall under the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD). These types of toys are generally designed for public use or operated using combustion engines. These exclusions include:
Toys intended for public use (playground equipment and toy rides)
Gas-powered toy vehicles
Toy steam engines
Slings and catapults
EN71 is updated regularly, and even minor changes could affect your business. For recent updates, visit EU Toy Safety Directive: New Framework for Evolving Standards.
In addition to EN71, manufacturers of electronic toys in the UK are required to comply with several other regulations that apply to all electronic devices. These regulations include the Restriction of Hazardous Substances in electronic equipment (RoHS), electrical safety, EMC, and WEEE (apart from battery safety and package labeling requirements).
The process of toy safety testing in the UK can be complicated and challenging for manufacturers, importers, suppliers, and distributors alike. Stringent lab testing and certification ensure products are safe for use by children. Product traceability, relevant warning labels, declaration of conformity, test reports, and accurate product manuals are some of the documentation and labeling requirements included for compliance.
A variety of tests, including functional, performance, mechanical, physical, chemical, and electrical safety testing, need to be performed to ensure that the toy is compliant with all the safety regulations. The process requires a significant investment in time and resources, but doing so reduces the risk of fines or legal action and strengthens the marketability of your product.
Apart from certifications and regulations specific to the UK, manufacturers in the UK also need to adhere to country-specific and international standards of toy safety when expanding to international markets.
Until January 2021, products intended for use by children who are less than 14 years old were required to be CE-marked before being placed on the market in the UK. Brexit replaced the long-standing CE mark requirement for toys with the UKCA mark, which demonstrates compliance with all the latest toy safety regulations. To facilitate a smooth regulatory transition, the UK government has decided to allow CE-marked products to be sold in the UK market until Dec 31, 2024.
In addition to the CE or UKCA, the GS mark has become an internationally accepted safety standard and is highly endorsed by manufacturers and consumers. The German-developed standard is awarded to products that are tested to be safe beyond international safety standards.
The IECEE CB certificate, introduced by the International Electrotechnical Commission for Electrical Equipment to facilitate national safety certifications in various markets, is recognized and valued across more than 50 countries.
Finally, several accredited testing institutions now provide a custom test mark signifying product quality beyond the mandatory legal requirements. These are highly sought after by manufacturers seeking to enhance brand perception and recognition across markets, and provide competitive differentiation.
Learn about toy testing standards around the world:
EU Toy Safety Directive: New Framework for Evolving Standards - Discover updates on the EU’s EN71 standard
Beyond Safe Enough - The Importance of Lead Testing in Children’s Toys - Read about the persistent issue of lead in toys around the world.
Bringing Safety to the Fore: Understanding U.S. Toy Standards - Learn more about the recent US ASTM and CPSC standard revisions.
Canada’s Toy Regulations: Expectations for a Safer Market - Stay up to date with Canada’s developing toy standard revisions to match international expectations.
China's Toy Safety Standard GB 6675-2014: Making China's Booming Domestic Toy Market - Learn how China is ensuring its continued success in the global toy market.
ISO 8124 "Toy Safety Standards": Harmonizing Global Safety Concerns - See how ISO is aligning its standards to global issues involving toy safety.
List of Published Standards for Toys in Support of the Toys Safety Regulations – See a full list of standards governing toys in the UK.