Mattel yanks yet more toysmade in China over health scare

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The Independent Online

Barbie again became a victim of this summer's lead-paint toy flap yesterday as Mattel, the world's largest toy manufacturer, announced details of yet another mass recall of products made in China.

The California-based company, which faces still more damage to its reputation, said that the latest recall covered 675,000 Barbie accessories sold between October 2006 and August this year, including a kitchen playset and a Kitty Condo set. The dolls themselves were not affected.

It is only the latest of several recalls this year that have affected Mattel as well as other companies heavily reliant on manufacturing plants in China. In most cases, the issue has been the discovery of elevated levels of lead paint on the products.

Also cited in yesterday's recall were 90,000 units of Mattel's GeoTrax locomotive line, and about 8,900 Big Big World 6-in-1 Bongo Band toys, both marketed by the company's Fisher-Price brand.

There is growing concern that the repeated recalls will deter consumers from buying as the Christmas toy-shopping season approaches. However, Mattel said that it had dedicated 50,000 hours in the last weeks to investigating its line of products for health risks and that the effort was now almost complete.

"As a result of our ongoing investigation, we discovered additional affected products," Robert Eckert, the company chairman, said in a statement. "Consequently, several subcontractors are no longer manufacturing Mattel toys. We apologize again to everyone affected and promise that we will continue to focus on ensuring the safety and quality of our toys."

It was only three weeks ago that the company issued a worldwide recall covering about 19 million toys already sold to consumers. As well as problems with lead, some of the products had small magnets that could have been swallowed by children. Two weeks earlier, Fisher-Price took similar action, recalling toys of such favourite characters as Elmo and Big Bird.

While Mattel may have the most at stake, the current spate of recalls began in June when another manufacturer, RC2 Corp, revealed that excessive lead had been found in parts of its Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway line.

The safety scares have also presented a headache to authorities in China, who face growing public scepticism in America about its products. Officials in Beijing yesterday said that quality control experts were working with Mattel to look into the latest problems.

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