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The European Commission has been active in setting high safety requirements for toys for more than two decades, emphasising the need to protect children. In 1988, the Toys Safety Directive was adopted, setting harmonised safety requirements for all toys on sale in the then 12 Member States.

Directive 88/378/EEC was one of the first so-called New Approach directives; setting out minimum safety requirements but leaving it to industry, through the European Standardisation Bodies (CEN and CENELEC), to agree detailed technical standards for how each type of product should meet them. Directive 2009/48/EC is also the first sectoral directive to incorporate and be aligned to the general framework for the marketing of products in the EU, the so called "goods package".

The New Approach and the goods package are particularly appropriate for the toys sector, since the detailed standards can be updated more rapidly to take account of new product and application developments. The Commission maintains a list of all harmonised standards applicable to toys under the Directive. The references of those (non-mandatory) standards are published in the Official Journal of the European Union:

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