The European Commission yesterday dismissed the British media’s “false claims” that Brussels was banning children under eight from blowing balloons and using other party toys, such as whistles, for safety reasons.

This is all a false storm in a teacup by the British press

In an unusual denial, the Commission said the new EU Toy Safety rules, which entered into force last summer, were only intended to make latex balloons and other party fare safer as incidents had been reported of children choking on defective balloons and similar toys.

The EU denied the imposition of any ban and said it only recommended that children under eight be supervised when blowing balloons.

The issue was splashed all over the largely eurosceptic British media a few days ago with flashy headlines like “EU children under control”, prompting journalists to quiz the Commission’s spokesman over the issue. The Commission rubbished the reports and said its rules, approved by all 27 member states, were only intended to make children’s lives safer. While denying any “ban”, the Commission said that in line with EU toy safety rules in place since 1998, balloons made of latex carry a warning to prevent children from choking or suffocating by inhaling or swallowing uninflated or broken balloons. Stronger balloons do not need to carry the warning.

“The purpose is to draw parents’ attention to the risks of choking or suffocation that exist,” the Commission said. According to the Commission, the previous Toy Safety Directive 88/378 had already contained essential safety requirements to protect children from the risk of choking or suffocating.

The requirements also state that toys for children under three must be of such dimensions as to prevent them from being inhaled or swallowed and that toys must not present a risk of suffocation. “So this is all a false storm in a teacup by the British press,” a Commission spokesman remarked.


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