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6 Soother Holder Models Failed to Comply with Safety Standard Posing Choking or Strangulation Hazards

  • 2024.03.14

Taking care of young children (newborns to 4 years old) is no easy feat, from feeding, changing diapers, to calming their little ones when they start fussing. Therefore, many parents would have a soother at the ready, along with a soother holder to prevent hygiene issues or aggravated fussing in case the little one drops the soother. Some soother holders are even intricately designed to attract young children to play with it. Despite being a seemingly simple accessory, soother holder products must be selected with care to avoid safety risks to young children. In the European Union (EU), there have been occasional product recalls for soother holders found with potential choking or strangulation hazards. In view of this, the Consumer Council tested 15 models of soother holders on the market and found that 40% (6 models) did not meet the safety requirements of the European Standards, posing choking or strangulation hazards. The relevant test results have been referred to the Customs & Excise Department for follow-up. The Council urges manufacturers to improve their product design promptly and to uphold a stringent production process. At the same time, Hong Kong agents should ensure the safety of their imported products so as to safeguard young children.

The Council sourced 15 models of soother holders in flat or 3D designs from different retailers, 10 of which came with a garment fastener while the other 5 were not designed to be fastened on clothing and did not come with a garment fastener, but were instead attached to a plush toy or textile parts. Owing to the difference in key materials and designs amongst the models, the retail price also vastly varied, ranging from $26 to $329. As Hong Kong currently does not have specific requirements on the safety of soother holders, the current test made reference to the European Standard BS EN 12586 established for soother holders. Structural and mechanical safety tests were conducted. Additionally, tests on the mechanical and physical properties were conducted on 7 models which could be classified as toys, with reference to the European toy safety standard EN 71-1. In terms of the overall performance, 8 models received overall ratings of 4.5 points or above, yet the retail price varied by almost 7-fold, reflecting that satisfactory options are available at all price points.

5 Models Without Ventilation Holes Non-compliant with European Safety Standard

Soother holders generally comprise a strap and clasps. One end of the strap features a holder for fastening the soother (“soother fastener”) while the other end has a clasp or clip for attaching to the young child’s garment (“garment fastener”). As young children often place objects into their mouths, the European standard has stipulated that the clip, clasp or other parts of soother holders should not be too small, so as to prevent airway obstruction and choking hazards in the event that a young child accidentally swallows the parts. If the model could pass through 2 larger guides simulating the oral cavity of young children, according to the requirements the model must have at least 2 ventilation holes not less than 4mm in diameter, or 1 ventilation hole no less than 12mm in diameter. In case a young child’s airway is obstructed by such small parts, breathing would still be possible via the ventilation holes, which could also assist the extraction of the object using surgical instrument.

The test found that the garment fastener or decorative part of 5 models could pass through the 2 test guides simulating the oral cavity of young children, yet these parts did not provide ventilation holes thus failed to comply with the standards and might pose choking hazards. Furthermore, the standard stipulates that the detachable parts of soother holders should not be able to pass through another test guide with a smaller diameter simulating the mouth size of infants, even if it has ventilation holes, so as to prevent accidental swallowing by young children. The results showed that the detached soother fastener of 1 model could pass through the guides of all 3 sizes, thus failing to meet the safety test.

Straps of 5 Models Were Too Long with Possible Strangulation Hazard
1 Model Failed the Durability Test

Young children like to play with objects in their vicinity. If the soother holder attached to them is excessively long, it might completely encircle the neck and pose strangulation hazards. The neck circumference of young children aged 0 to 36 months is 240mm on average. The European Standard requires the complete length of soother holders (excluding the garment fastener) to be no longer than 220mm when subjected to a tensile force of 25N. The measured length of 5 models exceeded this limit, ranging from 223mm to 286mm, posing potential strangulation hazards.

Apart from structural safety, consumers would naturally expect soother holders to be durable and secure. The garment fasteners of samples were subjected to repeated opening and closing for 1,000 cycles. 1 model was found with damage on the 320th attempt. In the tensile strength test, the same model was unable to withstand the tensile force of 90N and broke during the test, failing to comply with the standard requirements. The small parts of the model which broke off during the tests also posed choking hazards to young children if accidentally swallowed.

Incomplete Labelling Information for Some Models

Based on the appearance and properties of the test models, 7 models were also classified as toys, including 1 model which was labelled as not being a toy product and another 1 model which did not clearly label whether it was a toy. These models were classified as toys considering the play value of their colourful fabric toy decorations or rattle components, which may attract young children to play with them. All 7 models were tested in accordance with the mechanical and physical safety standards of the European toy safety standard EN 71-1 and were all found to comply with the requirements.

The test also reviewed the labelling information of the test models and found some of the labelled information to be relatively short and simple that should be improved. This included 4 models which were not labelled with the information of its company in Hong Kong, making it difficult for consumers to reach out to the company in case of queries; 2 models were only labelled with warnings in English; 1 model only displayed information in Japanese; 2 models only had brief labelling information without providing product usage details; 6 models with straps did not come with reminders to consumers not to extend the soother holder themselves. The relevant suppliers should follow up promptly.

Soother holders are intimate products for infants and toddlers. Parents could pay heed to the following tips when selecting and letting their little ones use the products:

  • Scrutinise the instructions for use and product information, paying particular heed to the warnings. Before use, carefully check the product and discard immediately if any damage is found;
  • Never lengthen the strap of soother holders by yourself to prevent strangulation hazards on young children;
  • Stay constantly vigilant on the use of such products by young children to ensure their safety;
  • Most soother holders cannot be sterilised under high temperatures. Before cleaning soother holders, read the product labelling carefully, including the maximum temperature, garment care labels, and other points to note for cleaning.


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