Toys that could choke or strangle young children still are on store shelves this Christmas shopping season, a consumer group says.

Releasing a list of allegedly hazardous toys that its members found in stores throughout the country, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group said safety standards are too lax and inadequately enforced."As the biggest shopping day of the year approaches, parents should not assume that the toys they find on the shelves are safe," Lucinda Sikes, attorney for U.S. PIRG, said at a news conference Wednesday.

Because of inadequate or misleading labeling, toys containing small parts that fit easily into a small child's mouth are still available to children under 3 despite regulations designed to protect that age group, the consumer group contended.

The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission sets the labeling standard, saying that toys with small parts should be labeled as not intended for use by children under 3.

But in a report, "Trouble in Toyland," U.S. PIRG said the labeling, even when accurately reflecting the intended age group, misleads parents by ignoring the safety rationale.

"Many parents may regard age labeling as a suggestion based on the developmental maturity of a child, not realizing that the toys labeled for use by children over 3 are often potentially lethal for children who still tend to put things in their mouths," Sikes said.

As examples, the consumer group displayed parts that were either loose, as in puzzles, or could easily be broken off or pulled off, such as wheels or other pieces of toy cars.

The report pointed to some crib gyms as particularly hazardous and said balloons can be life-threatening as well. The group, basing its report on 21 toys it said researchers had found on sale in 14 states, said industry standards for such products are being skirted or violated.

David A. Miller, president of the New York-based Toy Manufacturers of America, accused the consumer group of trying to "frighten parents about toys that are perfectly safe."