Safety inspectors said they found faults in 400 toys, or about a quarter of the products they checked against European Union guidelines, during this year's Nuremberg Toy Fair in Germany.
The toy trade has been shaken by a series of breaches of safety standards
Christine Haderthauer, minister of family affairs in the German state of Bavaria, attacked the EU guidelines as too lax, saying they permitted small amounts of dangerous substances. She called for the substances to be banned outright.
Safety is a key issue at the six-day fair which ends on Tuesday, Feb. 10. The toy trade is dominated by Chinese manufacturers.
Haderthauer said Bavarian trade inspectors checked about 1,600 toys at 477 booths and found issues with a quarter of products.
In 3.5 percent of cases, the defects were serious. But she said the ratios could not be generalized to the whole range of toys on display, because the inspectors targeted problem manufacturers.
"Obviously we know who the bad boys are and where to look," she said.
A total of 221 Chinese exhibitors have shown goods at the fair
The minister said one of the worst cases was a kit to make gel balls. The substance contained polymer granulates which could seal up a child's stomach if swallowed, because they attach themselves like glue to the digestive tract lining.
She said children could jam their fingers in other toys, or swallow the loosely attached eyes of some cuddly soft dolls. Other items had screw-heads on them which were not rounded. Some toys with magnets without warning labels as required by law.
The 2,700 exhibitors at the fair have 1 million toys in their catalogues, according to the organizers.
More effort needed
The industrial safety department of the German region of Central Franconia said it was acting on a warning from the European Commission to manufacturers and importers that self-regulation in the industry required "much more effort" by toymakers themselves.
"Inspections at the toy fair, where business orders are placed before the new products arrive in the stores, have proved quite efficient," the department said.
"The defects can usually then be resolved by the manufacturers before the product goes on the market."
The rules are set out in European Union product guidelines.