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Mattel Magnetic Toy Recall Sparks Call for New Inspections

Aug 15, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP, LLP In the wake of yesterday’s massive Mattel Magnetic toy recall, a US Senator has called for voluntary inspections of all imported toys from China before they can ever reach children.  Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill) has requested a meeting with US toy manufacturers to urge them to submit all Chinese imports to such an inspection regime.

In a statement released yesterday, Durbin said “We can’t wait any longer for China to crack down on its lax safety standards.  This needs to stop now before more children and more families are put at risk.”  The statement asks toy makers and retailers to voluntarily cooperate with an inspection program that would target Chinese manufactured products.

Yesterday, Mattel recalled more than 9 million Chinese-made toys for magnet and lead paint hazards.  The recall applied to Polly Pocket, Barbie, Batman and Doggie Day Care toys that contained small magnets that can cause serious injury to children if swallowed.  When more than one of the powerful magnet is swallowed, they can become attracted to each other through the walls of the intestinal track, causing intestinal perforations, obstructions and other dangerous injuries.  A complete list of all of the recalled Mattel toys can be found here.

On the same day, the company recalled 253,000 die cast metal toy cars because they were made with lead paint.  It was Mattel’s second such recall in as many weeks.  On August 1, Fisher-Price, a division of Mattel, recalled more than a million toys for a lead paint hazard.   All of those toys were also made in China.  

In light of these recalls, Durbin said he believes that all children’s products from China should be detained and inspected before they make it into stores.  Durbin has sponsored several bills in the Senate that would take a stronger stand on all imports.  One would subject all Chinese imports to mandatory inspections, and the other would grant stronger enforcement authority to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.  But Durbin said that the danger posed by hazardous toys to children is too serious to wait for either measure to be approved and implemented.  That is why he has called on toy manufactures to act.  

For its part, Mattel took out full page ads in newspapers across the country on Tuesday apologizing to consumers for the recall debacle.   At a news conference yesterday, Mattel CEO Bob Eckert said that he could not guarantee that yesterday's action would be the last of the recalls.  But he tried to assure anxious consumers, saying that “Every production batch is being tested, and we’ll continue to enforce the highest quality standards in the industry.”

Mattel is known for enforcing high standards on its foreign contractors in everything from product safety to working conditions.  That is what is so disturbing about the company’s recent recalls.  If Mattel toys can contain hazards as dangerous as lead paint, then other companies’ toys are suspect as well.   That sad fact has millions of parents looking at their children’s toy chests with new suspicion.

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