Parents shopping for their kids this holiday season need to be alert and carefully examine toys before they buy them because recalled and counterfeit toys are being sold online, a consumer report said Thursday.
The 37th annual "Trouble in Toyland" toy safety report by Washington-based US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) warned parents to be especially mindful of this hidden danger.
PIRG said that in October it was able to buy more than 30 recalled toys from several US-based online sellers, noting that it is illegal for retailers and online marketplaces to sell toys that have been recalled.
The report also said counterfeit toys that don't necessarily meet mandatory US safety standards continue to be sold in stores and online.
The group was able to buy close to a dozen different types of toys that had been recalled — for reasons that ranged from choking hazards to laceration risk to potential poisoning — from sellers on Facebook Marketplace and eBay, as well as several online toy shops.
The toys included stuffed animals, action figures, activity balls for infants, musical toys, bath toys and a toddler's riding toy, and a majority of them were bought new in the original packaging or new with tags.
"None of the other sellers flagged, stopped or sent a warning about any of our other purchases of recalled toys," the report said.
The recalled toys that PIRG said it was able to purchase online included:
-- DigitDots 3mm and 5mm Magnetic Balls from HD Premier: These were recalled in March 2022 for injury to the digestive system if two or more magnets are swallowed.
-- Kidoozie Play Tents and Playhouses by Epoch Everlasting Play: These were recalled in July 2022 because the fabric playhouses and play tents fail to meet industry flammability standards.
-- Forky 11" Plush Toys from Pixar's Toy Story: The toy was recalled in July 2019 because the googly plastic eyes on the toy can detach, posing a choking hazard to young children.
-- Early Learning Centre Little Senses Lights & Sounds Shape Sorter Toys from Addo Play: The toy set was recalled in October 2022 because the red cube can come apart and release a small white ball, posing a choking hazard.
-- 6-inch Aflac plush promotional ducks from Communicorp: The plush ducks were recalled in June 2022 because components contain excessive levels of toxic phthalates, which are dangerous because they can negatively impact brain and physical development in young children. The recall covered a variety of the plush duck characters, including Accident Duck, Business Duck, Fishing Duck, Police Duck, PGA Duck, One Day Pay Duck, Heisman Duck and Lifeguard Duck.
-- Blue's Clues Foot to Floor Ride-on Toys from Huffy Corp: The toy was recalled in August 2022 because the ride-on toy can tip forward when a young child is riding it, posing fall and injury hazards.
When the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and a toy manufacturer announce a recall, that means the toy must immediately be removed from store shelves and online marketplaces. Federal law prohibits the sale of products subject to a recall ordered by the CPSC or a voluntary recall by the company in consultation by the CPSC, the report said.
PIRG offered this advice regarding the best way to avoid counterfeit toys: If the only place to buy a popular, hard-to-find toy is a website you've never heard of or that looks sketchy, there may be a reason for that.
The toys may not be genuine, the report said, and may not meet safety standards for parts that can break or levels of toxins, which are common in plastic toys.
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For the film buff in your life, there are plenty of gift options that go beyond a ticket to the movies. Those in Los Angeles, or planning a trip to Hollywood, might enjoy a ticket to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures to check out Bruce the shark from “Jaws." Or maybe a festival pass for the TCM Classic Film Festival in April. There's also an illustrated coffee-table book about the best moments in Oscars fashion, a subscription to one of the best film podcasts out there, a new LP of the music of “The Godfather” trilogy and a 4K UHD of “Top Gun: Maverick.”