Soft PVC teething toys to be withdrawn from p p p

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THE Government announced moves to withdraw soft PVC teething toys from the shelves last night amid fears about the chemical softeners used in their manufacture.

In a reversal of its earlier position, the Department of Trade and Industry said it would ask British toy retailers to agree to a voluntary ban.

The move came after the European Commission recommended an immediate EU- wide ban of the toys for children aged under three. The EU said that subject to final approval from the its emergencies committee, children's play things for the mouth should be removed from the shelves.

The EU said production of toys using the suspect chemical softeners, phthalates, would have to cease within 10 days of the decision being confirmed.

The emergency measure follows scientific confirmation that there is a potential risk of the phthalates being released into children's mouths.

Initially, Britain accepted that a permanent ban might be justified, but said it was "not so sure about the emergency ban. It will create panic in the toy shops which does not reflect the minimal level of risk."

However, a spokesman for the DTI said last night: "We want to reassure everyone that toys sold in the UK are safe. Tomorrow we will be meeting industry in an attempt to secure a voluntary agreement."