BEIJING (AP) - China has banned exports by two toy manufacturers whose products were subject to major recalls in the United States because they were decorated with lead-tainted paint, the government said Thursday.
The General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said the restrictions on Lee Der Industrial Co. Ltd. and Hansheng Wood Products were temporary, but did not give any details.
''They have been asked to evaluate and change their business practices,'' the administration said in a notice on its Web site.
The quality control watchdog also suggested that foreign companies who contract Chinese factories to make their products should take more responsibility.
''To prevent loopholes in quality control, overseas brand owners should improve their product design and supervision over product quality,'' the administration said.
The agency said police were investigating two companies' use of ''fake plastic pigment'' but did not elaborate. Such pigments are a type of industrial latex usually used to increase surface gloss and smoothness.
Chinese companies often have long supply chains, making it difficult to trace the exact origin of components, chemicals, and food additives.
Lead poisoning can cause vomiting, anemia and learning difficulties. In extreme cases, it can cause severe neurological damage and death.
Officials at Lee Der and Hansheng, both located in the southern province of Guangdong, said Thursday they had not heard about the export ban and refused to comment further.
It was not immediately clear how long the ban would last, or whether any further action was planned. The watchdog last month revoked the business licenses of two other Chinese companies that made a tainted pet food ingredient blamed for causing the deaths of cats and dogs in North America.
Lee Der made 967,000 toys recalled last week by Mattel Inc. because they were coated with paint found to have excessive amounts of lead. The plastic preschool toys, sold under the Fisher-Price brand in the U.S., included the popular Big Bird, Elmo, Dora and Diego characters.
In June, RC2 Corp. recalled 1.5 million wooden railroad toys and set parts made by Hansheng from its Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway product line because of lead paint.
The Chinese watchdog also warned that other toy manufacturers whose products do not meet safety standards overseas will not be allowed to sell their goods abroad until they rectify problems. But it said the majority of toys made in China were manufactured strictly according to foreign specifications.
China has come under fire in recent months after potentially dangerous levels of chemicals and toxins were found in some of its exports. A long list of products, from seafood to toothpaste, have been recalled or rejected by a number of countries worried about safety, and Beijing has been fighting to regain consumer confidence.
On Thursday, a New Jersey-based tire importer said it would recall 255,000 Chinese-made tires it claims were defective because they lack a safety feature that prevents tread separation.
The company had been ordered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in June to recall as many as 450,000 tires that it bought from Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. since 2002.
Chinese officials have vowed to tighten monitoring and the State Council, China's Cabinet, approved a new regulation on food safety with unusual speed.
On Wednesday, the State Food and Drug Administration announced for the first time that the government was spending 8.8 billion yuan (US$1.1 billion; euro880 million) on improving the country's infrastructure for food and drug safety. That plan was approved in 2005, but construction of new safety testing labs and other facilities have only just begun, the administration said.
Meanwhile, the official Xinhua News Agency said five people were on trial in the southern city of Guangzhou in connection with the 2006 deaths of 13 consumers who took a drug to treat inflamed gallbladders and stomach linings.
The five were employees at the Qiqihar No. 2 Pharmaceutical Co. of Heilongjiang province, which allegedly used a chemical, diglycol, which can cause kidney failure. A vendor passed it off as a normal ingredient and quality inspectors failed to detect the diglycol.
China's pharmaceutical industry is highly lucrative but poorly regulated. Companies frequently cash in by substituting fake or substandard ingredients.
Also Thursday, Xinhua said 22 people have been arrested in the northern province of Hebei for producing and selling fake rabies vaccines. Some 44,000 bottles of the counterfeit vaccine have been seized, Xinhua said, and no illnesses were reported.