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China Toys Alert

  • August 24th, 2007
  • Posted by EUEditor

barbie-crop.jpgAnxieties over unsafe toys from China spread globally this month, with the Mattel company stepping-up its recall of toys in Europe — and the EU activating a special alert system.

Ingrid Rubie followed up actions by governments which, as in Australia, had seen them moving rapidly to tighten up the trade — and she found cooperative relations on the problem at country-to-country level.

RAPID ACTION

The leading maker Mattel recalled 436 000 toys globally (14.8.07) after traces of lead and magnets were found in several children’s products, raising concerns worldwide.

The European Commission reported (16.8.07) it was activating its RAPEX process – a rapid alert system for non-food dangerous consumer products.

Industry and consumers were immediately warned to act quickly where products were in the household, since the majority of imports in the category were found to have been already sold.

They’d been imported into eleven EU countries; Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal Spain and the United Kingdom – as well as Croatia and Switzerland.

A bulletin from the EC said several of the toys could release small magnets, which if inhaled or swallowed could damage children’s intestines.

EC ASSURANCES

The European Commission told EUAustralia Online (23.8.07) it was reassured by the Chinese response.

It said the Consumer Protection Commissioner Meglena Kuneva had expressed satisfaction that the danger posed by the toys was detected by the producer in its own audits, and that the company acted responsibly.

“Cooperation among producers and authorities is a key to product safety, and more vigilance is needed from both sides to live by the rule that no compromises are accepted in this area,” she said.

Details were provided on two official notifications:-

• One notification concerns the “Sarge” character from the “CARS” die-cast vehicle line, manufactured between May 2007 and July 2007, which contains illegal levels of lead … The toy was produced by one of Mattel’s contract manufacturers in China.

• The other recall notification relates to magnetic toys manufactured between January 2002 and 31 January 2007, including various Polly Pocket, Doggie Day Care and Batman toys and an accessory part of Barbie & Tanner toy. These toys may release small, powerful magnets that can then be swallowed or aspirated by young children or placed by a child in their nose or ears. When more than one magnet is swallowed, the magnets can attract each other and cause intestinal perforation, infection or blockage, which can be fatal. Aspiration to the lungs requires immediate surgery. Mattel is recalling 18.2 million magnetic toys globally. The majority of these toys have already been sold, hence the importance of consumer information. The recall follows an earlier voluntary recall by Mattel of eight toys in November 2006.

MANAGING THE TROUBLE

Chinese authorities while pointing out the total percentage of affected toys was extremely small have been cooperating with national governments worldwide.

In Australia the issue began to cause tension between the federal government, responsible for Customs control, and state governments in charge of consumer protection.

The acting New South Wales Fair Trading Minister, Barbara Perry, demanded stiffer customs protection from the Commonwealth (15.8.07).

“They have the powers to prevent these products from entering our borders in the first place,” she said.

Reference:

EC, Consumers: Mattel expands recall of Chinese toys, IP/07/1234, Brussels, 16.8.07
http://www.europa.eu/rapid/searchAction.do (20.8.07)

ABC News (Australia), Mattel recall prompts calls for tighter customs laws, 15.8.07, www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/08/15/2006160.htm (18.8.07)

Picture: Mattel image

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