EU PROTECTS > Our Health > Hidden hazard: How a surprise toy put European countries on high alert

“I want to be 100% sure that the toys my son plays with are safe.”

Svenja Weber

In autumn 2017, a Finnish customs inspector discovered a suspicious shipment of juice bottles. They would have been highly appealing to young children, particularly as each bottle came with a small toy. But after several tests, the Finnish Customs lab confirmed that the toy posed a choking hazard. 

Finland immediately activated the Europe-wide rapid alert system. In the following days, national authorities across the EU acted fast to withdraw the juice bottle from shops and outlets.

Hidden hazard: How a surprise toy put European countries on high alert

A favourite character, a preferred colour or flavour – these are the choices that guide us when shopping for children. Potential risks can easily be overlooked. When Finland signalled that an imported juice bottle with a surprise toy posed a choking hazard, Luxembourg was one of the 31 countries to receive the warning. Thanks to a Europe-wide alert system, thousands of young children were kept out of harm’s way.

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Svenja Weber


“When I do my shopping in the supermarket, my son comes with me. Faced with shelves of products packaged in flashy colours, with pictures of his favourite cartoon characters, I am constantly having to check these products to be sure they are suitable for children.”




“For children, temptation is everywhere in shops.”

- Svenja Weber

Mikko Kontiainen

Customs Laboratory


“My responsibility is to test toys and other consumer products. When the juice bottle arrived at the lab, I carried out tests on the surprise toy. While the toy seemed harmless, it didn’t meet our safety standards. It was too small and could easily have been swallowed.”




“The risk was that a young child could choke.”

- Mikko Kontiainen

Jonna Neffling



“When we received the lab results, we quickly blocked the juice bottles in the distributor’s warehouse. We then issued a Europe-wide alert. By March 2018, a total of 24,770 bottles had been destroyed under our supervision in Finland alone.”






“Every year we issue around 30-40 alerts.”

- Jonna Neffling

Simone Wagner

Institute of Standardisation, Accreditation, Safety and Quality of Products and Services (ILNAS)


“When a dangerous product is identified, we share information with our national distributors and our European colleagues. Following Finland’s alert, retailers in our network discovered that the juice bottle was already in Luxembourg. We tested it ourselves, and our distributor took it off of the shelves.” 

“The minute we receive an alert on a dangerous product, we do everything possible to protect consumers.”

- Simone Wagner

Did you know?

A European rapid alert system for dangerous non-food products

When an unsafe product is discovered at the border or within Europe, an alert is sent to 31 European countries (the 28 EU Member States, together with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway) so they can quickly withdraw it from shelves.

Out of the pram

In 2017, 29% of the alerts concerned toys, and almost half turned out to pose a choking risk to children. Other objects for children, such as car seats, dummies or nappies, also make up a high number of alerts.

5.97 million

The number of toy articles removed from circulation in 2017.


In 2017, about half of the alerts resulted in the recall of products.

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Some of them may even come from your country.

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