SHANGHAI — The China Toy and Juvenile Products Association will develop the country's first industry-wide safety standards for infant and children's feeding utensils.
At a news conference at the China Toy Expo and the China Kids Expo, held in Shanghai earlier this year, representatives spoke about the voluntary effort, which they hope will lead to a government standard.
“We have to start right from the beginning,” said Liang Mei, secretary of the China Toy and Juvenile Products Association.
“There isn't a government standard yet because that takes time, one or two years at least,” she said. “We've become aware of this problem and that's why we're developing our own standard.”
Under the plan, products will feature a label to show consumers that they adhere to the standards. Companies that are grossly not up to standard could be punished, Liang said, “but if there is absolutely no standard we can't do anything.”
Looking to the future she said: “We will communicate with the government in the hope that our standards will eventually become the government standard.”
One company participating in the project said large companies have already developed their own standards, but smaller companies did not pay much attention to the issue. “It is related with food safety concerns,” said Hong Limin, chairman of Zhejiang Rikang Baby Products Co. Ltd.
Others agreed. “Currently there is no industry standard so we must develop our own standards,” said He Yi, brand director for Zhejiang MuAi Baby and Children's Products Co.'s new Super Mama product line of baby products. “These standards are necessary to make consumers feel safer.”
Her company has close to 100 million RMB ($16 million) in sales last year and is expecting a 30-50 percent increase this year. It manufactures in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, and uses only imported polyphenylsulfone and polypropylene, along with domestically produced silicone, to maintain high standard of safety.
She said that the new standards will have a greater impact on smaller manufacturers with limited capital.
We've dealt with recalls before,” she said. “We have the ability to change with the standards. But smaller factories don't have the ability to lose that kind of money.”
The bottom line she said was, “We want consumers to see we put safety and quality first.”
An executive at an American children's utensils company with manufacturing in Wenzhou said that in general he feels that sometimes Chinese industry standards can be more stringent than Western ones, but he seemed confident that his company could reach the standards.
“Every day we have to pass new standards for markets around the world,” he said, “so I think it shouldn't be a problem.”
Ann Kuang, general manager of Shenzhen Effort Trading Develop Co. Ltd., said the new standards can only be good for the industry. Her company, which has been manufacturing eating utensils for export for the past 20 years, has just begun marketing them domestically.
“It's not as if we haven't been following any standards all these years,” she said, explaining that the company follows European regulations. But she said, “for those companies not following standards already, the new standards will have an influence.” Her company is experimenting with materials like polylactic acid, made from corn, in an attempt to find safe and environmentally friendly solutions.
The new standards will cover eating utensils and accessories. Testing will be done on the exterior as well as the chemical properties of the materials. The standards will be released in spring of 2015, Liang said. Government safety standards for all children's products and toys are expected to come out in 2016.