- Video report by ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi
I have seen the dark side of Christmas.
A visit to a grotty grotto of toys seized by Peterborough and Cambridgeshire Trading Standards revealed just how dangerous some of the toys are currently heading to the UK.
One example was a counterfeit Minion toy from Despicable Me - but this one was truly despicable. It lacked proper warnings about safe use - while the small battery, about the size of a sweet, was far too easy for a child to access.
If swallowed, the battery can cause a child horrific internal acid burns.
I also met a cute but dangerous character in the shape of a character from the Big Hero 6 film.
It was exactly the kind of thing a toddler would put in their mouth - however, this lamp contained an industrial chemical called phthalate which is tightly controlled.
Shockingly, we worked out this one counterfeit contained more than 200 times the legal level of phthalates.
As part of an investigation into the fake goods industry, I was given access to the high security customs search area of Britain's biggest port at Felixstowe.
There, they are checking imports for signs of counterfeiting and possible hazards.
Among the dangerous toys they found was a bed warmer for children – described as "lethal " by Trading Standards.
The product could cause electrocution - and like many of the seasonal fakes, it has no proper safety instructions.
The revelations come after ITV News received information on a submission that the British Toy and Hobby Association will present to MPs.
They claim criminals are now making a staggering £400 million a year from counterfeit toys.
The legitimate industry says we need a new agreement with China to jointly identify and stop these dangerous products.
I have spoken to a range of toy experts and here are what shoppers need to look out for in order to avoid counterfeits:
- Check labels, packaging and for misspellings; poor print or packaging quality
- Seek only ‘authorised dealers’ and known reputable dealers
- Watch for deals that allow you to purchase without VAT or sales tax
- Beware of ‘too good to be true’ prices
- Make sure you get an itemised, dated receipt
- Look for the 'CE' mark - this is a commitment from the manufacturer that the toy complies with strict EU safety rules
- Check for easily detachable parts such as pull cords, eyes and noses, etc - these can be a choking hazard
- Battery compartments should only be able to be opened with a screwdriver
- Safety instructions should be in English
- Be wary if you're told they are 'seconds' or 'rejects'
- Poorly printed or photocopied labels - often with spelling mistakes
- Poor logo embroidery or inconsistent colours
- ITV News consumer editor Chris Choi explains more: