A child plays with LEGO building blocks while visiting the National Building Museum's exhibit "Lego Architecture: Towering Ambition" in Washington, DC, August 10, 2010. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s been a week of bad news for several well-known toy retail brands and department stores on the toy front, as a number of top-selling products have been subjected to an emergency recall on the grounds of potential hazards. The timing of the news couldn’t be worse; one of the products affected is a stuffed toy; exactly the sort that a well-meaning spouse or partner may have bought for their beloved for Valentine’s Day.

Retailers and distributors are attempting to make contact with all customers who’ve recently purchased one of the affected toys, but have no way of identifying individuals who’ve bought the products in-store. If you’ve recently purchased a toy product, double check the details below to make sure you haven’t unintentionally bought a dangerous toy into your home. If you have, return it to the place of purchase immediately for a full refund. The shops and retailers known to have been affected so far are Amazon, Argos, and Smyths, although there will inevitably be others.

Mini Cupcake Surprise Assortment (sold by Smyths)

The recall of this product was reported by several British newspapers over the course of the last week, including the Daily Mail. The super-cute toys are particularly attractive to children, and especially little girls. The Dutch-made mini cupcake surprise is a toy that looks like a plastic cupcake, but actually comes apart and can be rebuilt into the form of a doll.

The toys aren’t edible, but because of their design and appearance it may be tempting for children – especially very young ones – to bite them. Therein lies the problem; the toys have been found to be in breach of REACH guidelines, which are a European Union directive regulating the type and volume of chemicals that can be used in the manufacture of toys and other products. Although almost certainly not harmful to the touch, if chewed and digested the parts may cause health issues. That risk was enough to prompt the regulator to recall the toys.

The problem relates to a specific batch of the toys which was manufactured between April 2017 and January of the following year. Despite that, it’s not safe to assume that your toy is safe if you’ve bought it more recently, as it may have been in storage for a long time before you bought it. The specific batch number affected is 1613, which will be printed on the bottom of the packaging that came with the toy.

If your product is part of the affected batch, you should contact Smyths immediately to return it and claim a refund. If you no longer have the packaging and therefore don’t know if your product is affected or not, it’s better to err on the side of caution and return the product anyway. Smyths will be able to provide specific advice on this when you contact them.

Animagic: My First Puppy (sold by Argos, Tesco, and Amazon)

The ‘My First Puppy’ range of toys are soft or plush dolls taking on the form of a puppy, as the name suggests. The thought that a soft toy could harm us is particularly upsetting; the eternal appeal of toys of this kind passes down from generation to generation, with cute soft toys remaining as popular with parents as they are with their children. That’s evidenced by the existence of the Fluffy Favourites slot game, which juxtaposes adult gaming thrills with the nostalgic appeal of soft toys. The slot game has proved to be massively popular with players, demonstrating that we never truly grow out of our love for teddy bears and similar cuddly creatures. The characters from the game are safely behind a screen and can’t harm you. Sadly, the Animagic product can.

Testing on the toys since they were launched has proven that the small parts connected to them break off too easily, and as a result, they pose a choking hazard. While this likely won’t affect adults or older children, it’s a huge concern with babies; especially those who are teething and like to chew. The problem isn’t limited to any individual batch; all of the ‘My First Puppy’ toys are affected, and all of them should be returned to their place of purchase for a refund. Amazon, Tesco, and Argos are aware of the situation, and will have processes in place to assist you when you contact them. The Sun confirmed the recall of the product earlier this week.

Little Tikes Activity Play Garden (sold by Argos)

This has been a big embarrassment for Little Tikes, who have been manufacturing children’s toys for almost fifty years, and until now have enjoyed an excellent reputation for quality. A worrying fault has been identified with their ‘Activity Play Garden’ products, and Argos themselves have requested that customers who own the toy contact them urgently.

It has not yet been determined whether these products need to be returned to stores, as a partial replacement of the product may be possible. The specific issue relates to the telephone part of the toy, which when attached can trap a child’s fingers between that and the green stand that comes with the playset. Obviously, this is not a life-threatening risk, but is painful and upsetting for any child who falls victim to the problem. The current advice issued by Argos is to detach the stand completely and dispose of it. Without the stand, the toy is safe to be played with.

Argos is in communication with Little Tikes to urgently create and ship a replacement part of the playset which will solve the problem, and expects to have confirmation regarding this option by February 22nd. They will contact you to confirm this if they’re aware you own an affected playset, which is why it’s important you contact them to give them that awareness. The replacement part will, of course, be supplied free of charge.

The manufacturers of all three products will presumably now be redoubling their health and safety tests in order to avoid similar embarrassing and damaging issues in the future.

 

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