Dangerous Mattel Magnetic Toy Sets Found By Chinese Inspectors Months Before RecallAug 16, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP, LLP As parents across the country scoured toy boxes for dangerous magnetic toy sets recalled by Mattel on Tuesday, reports surfaced that Chinese officials had known of problems with the magnets long before the recall. Meanwhile, the world’s second largest toymaker announced that it would step up its own inspection efforts to insure that its Chinese-made products are safe.
Yesterday, the Reuters news agency reported that an unidentified Chinese official with the China Toy Association had claimed that inspectors in that country had found problems with magnetic toy sets as early as March, but never told Mattel. Mattel recalled 19.7 million toys -- 9 million in the US alone -- because magnets embedded in the toys where prone to come loose. If swallowed, the powerful magnets can cause serious intestinal injuries. It was the company’s second such recall for dangerous magnetic play sets since 2006.
The China Toy Association is supposed to meet with government inspectors this week to discuss solutions for the kind of shoddy manufacturing that allows dangerous toys to reach children. But officials there concede that it could be years before an adequate inspection system is in place.
The China Chamber of Commerce said that is also trying to find ways to improve the country’s manufacturing practices. On Thursday, it appealed to manufacturing companies not to accept orders that are “too big or too cheap” as a way to improve quality.
Meanwhile, Hasbro, the number two toy company behind Mattel, announced that it was revising its system for inspecting Chinese-made toys in an effort to insure safety. A large number of the company’s toys, including the popular Transformers and Star Wars lines, are made by Chinese subcontractors. A spokesperson for Hasbro told Reuters that the company has always had a large number of employees in China to monitor the factories where its toys are made. Hasbro said that all of its toys will now be tested for lead paint before, during and after production. The company said it will step up random inspections as well.
Hasbro that its new system to check for lead paint will be similar to the “three point” plan the Mattel said it would be using. In addition to the magnetic play sets, Mattel’s August 14 recall included more than 200,000 die cast metal toy cars that had high levels of lead. Just two weeks prior to that action, Mattel’s Fisher-Price division recalled more than 1 million toys for a lead hazard. Mattel said that it would now require each batch of paint at every vendor to be tested prior to use. It will also test every toy production run, and Mattel will also initiate random checks. Both Hasbro and Mattel are hoping to restore confidence in Chinese toys before the start of the holiday shopping season. China makes 80-percent of the toys sold in the US.
On Thursday, the Chinese General Administration of Quality, Inspection and Quarantine announced it would be meeting with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission next month. The administration’s website said that the talks would look for ways to improve cooperation between the toy industry in both countries. The announcement did not include a specific date for the talks.