Consumer advocates are warning holiday shoppers about knock-off toys — sold widely online — that can leave young children vulnerable to choking hazards and exposed to toxic materials.
The popular Foxmind GoPop! is a toy that has grown in popularity this year and, as a result, is one of those products having counterfeits mass produced. The original toy is a silicone push-pop toy that features the proper warning labels and age recommendations.
Knock-off versions, which are estimated to be in the hundreds, forgo those warnings.
The latest United States Public Interest Research Group’s “Trouble in Toyland” report released Thursday outlines the current risk of knock-offs and recalled toys being sold in online marketplaces like Amazon or eBay. The 36th annual report urged consumers to make sure they are cautious of hidden hazards.
Abe Scarr, the Illinois PIRG’s education fund director, said not all counterfeit toys are dangerous but since makers of those knock-offs don’t adhere to federal regulatory guidelines or safety testing it can increase the risk to parents.
“The GoPop! is a push-pop toy made out of silicone and because it’s been so popular there are hundreds of less expensive knock-offs,” Scarr said during a virtual news conference Thursday. “With so many options it can be confusing for consumers to know which are being sold by reputable sellers whose products have undergone safety testing.”
Scarr said a version of the toy being sold on Amazon was accompanied by a photo of a child under 3 years old playing with it. Reviews left online in some of those Amazon listings reported the bubbles broke within the first day of children playing with it — which is the choking hazard for kids.
Scarr said there is also a risk of buying products online from outside the United States. He said just last month the U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized 259 packages of Lagori 7 Stones, a popular children’s game in India.
The toys were tested and found to be coated in lead, cadmium and barium that far exceeded safe levels, the federal agency said.
“Toxic chemicals in toys can be incredibly dangerous because they are not visible to the naked eye,” Scarr said. “Most parents or caregivers, of course, do not have access to lab testing so lead and other unsafe chemicals can go undetected.”
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky said she is working in Congress to pass legislation that will hold online marketplaces to the same standards as brick-and-mortar stores in making sure counterfeit products aren’t sold in high volumes.
“Counterfeit goods and toys are readily available on popular consumer websites and not only does this defraud consumers, but it also poses real risks,” Schakowsky said. “The online marketplace should have the same rules that they will be responsible for essentially vetting and verifying the sellers.”
Attorney General Kwame Raoul also released the annual Safe Shopping Guide which highlights hazardous toys, clothing, children’s products and other household items that have been recalled during the past year.
“Recalled items should not appear on store shelves; however, they may still be available through secondhand sellers,” Raoul said. “I encourage parents, grandparents, guardians and anyone who is shopping for a child this holiday season to use this free guide for a safer holiday.”
Shoppers who want to learn more about unsafe products or would like to report dangerous products can visit SaferProducts.gov.