President’s Letter – November 29, 2016: Perspectives on U.S. PIRG's 2016 Trouble in Toyland Report
As someone who worked in both communications and adolescent public health for over three decades, I find myself particularly blessed this holiday season to be part of the business of toys. I'm surrounded every day by a talented and passionate staff and so many creative people who invent wonderful products bringing both joy and the developmental benefits of play to kids around the world. They do this while working for U.S. toy companies that are deeply committed to product safety every minute of every day and in everything they produce. I cannot emphasize enough the toy community’s commitment to safety. We must protect and keep little ones safe while they play. And further, there are no margins in unsafe toys. It's just bad business.
I’ve also come to learn that, unfortunately, the holidays kick off "toy hunting season." This is a time when nonprofit groups come out with holiday season lists and reports that seek to undermine that deep commitment to product safety that I get to see each day. The result? Needlessly scared and confused consumers. The most recent report, announced last week just before Thanksgiving, comes from U.S. Public Interest Research Group or U.S. PIRG for short.
U.S. PIRG calls their annual report “Trouble in Toyland” – but their 2016 report doesn’t indicate any trouble at all. In fact, many of the items previously recalled as a result of ongoing regulatory vigilance and named by the group are NOT toys (e.g. hoverboards, children’s jewelry, pacifier clips, etc.). The inclusion of these products in a supposed “toy” safety report undermines the toy industry’s deep and ongoing commitment to ensuring that toys are among the safest consumer product categories found in the home. U.S. toy safety requirements are among the strictest in the world, with more than 100 standards and tests in place to ensure that all toys found on store shelves and online are safe.
Parents and caregivers should always shop at reputable stores and online retailers they know and trust, and exercise caution when buying toys at flea markets, garage sales, second-hand / thrift stores, etc., as these vendors may not be monitoring for recalled products. Families are also encouraged to stay up-to-date on toy recalls to ensure all recalled products are kept out of their homes – and out of children’s hands.
I am proud to share that TIA staff was represented at PIRG press conferences in various cities to educate the media and public about the intrinsic safety of toys and the flawed accusations made in PIRG’s report. Our statement, shared with media outlets nationwide both proactively and reactively, was included in broadcast and online/print coverage in 65 outlets across the nation (not including syndicated coverage). And the week prior to PIRG’s announcement, our rebuttal and statement on toy safety was included in more than 450 broadcast and print media placements in response to another, lesser-known group’s completely false list of “10 Worst Toys.”
Unlike these groups, which tend to release their sensationalized lists and reports right in time for the holiday season to garner as much media attention as they can, safety is the toy industry’s top priority every day of the year. I encourage all of our members to direct family, friends and consumers to www.PlaySafe.org, the Toy Industry Association’s year-round safety resource for parents and caregivers, where they can find accurate information on recalls, toy safety and ways to ensure safe play.
I also encourage our members to continue reaching out to our communications team if they receive any media questions about toy safety. We are here to help – and to make sure that our industry’s commitment to safety and the well-being of kids is heard loud and clear.
All good wishes,