Boss defends safety of Go Go Hamster

The safety of a hit Christmas toy - the Mr Squiggles Go Go Hamster - was defended strongly today by manufacturers following a health scare.

The firm behind the popular gift said the battery-powered pet was "absolutely safe" and has passed the most "rigorous testing" for health and safety in the toy industry.

Russ Hornsby, chief executive of the firm Cepia LLC, said in a statement: "We want to assure everyone already enjoying Mr Squiggles or other Zhu Zhu Pets, and those planning to purchase Mr Squiggles or another Zhu Zhu Pet this holiday season, that the toy is 100% safe and in compliance with all US and European toy safety standards.

"I have been in the toy industry for more than 35 years, and being a father of children myself I would never allow any substandard or unsafe product to hit the shelves.

"That's why we always test to not only meet but also exceed safety standards."

The statement comes after the US GoodGuide, providing consumer information on products, said testing had found traces of antimony beyond permitted levels in the Mr Squiggles version of the toy.

The Sun newspaper said 93 parts per million were discovered in the fur of the Mr Squiggles version - and 106 parts per million in its nose.

Three Mr Squiggles are understood to have been analysed by the guide.

The chemical is restricted to 60 parts per million because it can cause headaches and dizziness, according to the newspaper.

Dara O'Rourke, founder of the GoodGuide, and associate professor of environmental science at the University of California in Berkeley, told the newspaper: "The biggest danger is from a toddler or young child putting the toy in their mouth.

"If too much of the chemical is ingested it could lead to cancer or other health problems."

Go Go Hamsters, sold worldwide as Zhu Zhu pets and made in China, are tipped to be the biggest-selling Christmas toy yet, with stocks already running out across Britain.

The three other versions of the electronic pet are Chunk, Num Nums and Pipsqueak.