Mattel's Global Toy Recall Impacts Asia

Recall part of worldwide response aimed at removing more than 18 million toys from store shelves and homes because of lead paint and tiny magnets.

SINGAPORE (AP) — U.S. toy-making giant Mattel Inc. said Wednesday it was recalling dozens of models of Polly Pocket, Batman, Barbie and other toys from Asian markets, prompting groups in Australia and New Zealand to call for tighter safety regulations on imports.
The Asia recall is part of a worldwide recall announced Tuesday in the U.S. aimed at removing more than 18 million toys from store shelves and homes because of lead paint and tiny magnets that could be swallowed by small children. The global recall for toys containing lead paint now includes 436,000 Chinese-made ''Sarge'' cars based on the character from the movie ''Cars.''
The recall for toys containing magnets has grown to encompass 18.2 million magnetic toys, including Polly Pocket dolls and Batman action figures.
The expansion of the recall list came nearly two weeks after Mattel, the U.S.'s largest toy-maker, recalled 1.5 million Chinese-made Fisher-Price toys because of possible lead-paint hazards.
It was not clear if all the toys with magnets were also made in China, and Mattel officials could not be reached for clarification.
Mattel said Wednesday in Asia it has started issuing press releases to the media and notices to retailers on the recall. Toys in Asia makes up less than two percent of the worldwide recall, it said.
''Mattel does not put a price tag on safety. While this recall will most certainly have some financial impact, the company is at the same time, focusing all their efforts on communicating with their customers and rectifying the situation,'' Mattel Southeast Asia Pt Ltd. said in an e-mailed response to questions.
Mattel said the ''Sarge'' cars were manufactured by Early Light, a Hong Kong-registered company that makes its toys in China. Early Light subcontracted the painting of the ''Sarge'' cars to another company.
The Hong Kong Trade Development Council, a semi-government marketing body, said it was concerned by the recall.
''We are quite surprised as Hong Kong toy manufacturers are renowned for our quality and safety. We understand that the industry is looking into its supply chain,'' said Lawrence Yau, a spokesman for the council.
Following the recall announcement, Australia's trade regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, urged retailers to do more to test imported merchandise as global manufacturing increasingly centers on China.
''The crucial thing is that the problem needs to be discovered and as a result, we're recommending quite stringently to our manufacturers ... and to retailers that they step up their quality assurance,'' ACCC Deputy Chair Louise Sylvan told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio Wednesday.
Mattel Australia on Wednesday recalled the ''Sarge'' car as well as a further 30 magnetic toys that include Polly Pocket toys, a Batman figurine and a Barbie accessory.
An Australian consumer watchdog expressed concern that the country does not have adequate laws for testing children's toys, the Australian Associated Press reported. The Lead Group, which campaigns for the removal of lead from products, also said it will conduct a safety review of children's toys.
''It is important Australia has the consumer legislation such as they have in the United States, where there is a limit on the total amount of lead that a child should be able to ingest from consumer products in a day,'' the watchdog group's president Elizabeth O'Brien was quoted as saying.
Manufacturers in New Zealand, where more than 100,000 toys are being recalled, said the incident highlighted the risks of failing to monitor the quality and safety of imported merchandise.
The New Zealand Manufacturers and Exporters Association said the rush to bring in cheap products poses public safety risks.
''Unfortunately, it appears that it will take an accident or a major health scare before people start to question the risks associated with low-cost country supply chains and poor quality goods,'' the association's chief executive John Walley said.
Across the rest of the region, between 10 and nearly 30 types of toys were named in the recall in various countries, with 27 models listed in Singapore and 10 in China. About 20 models were affected in Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan.
In Hong Kong, 2,000 ''Sarge'' cars and 30,000 toys with magnets were being recalled. One Batman product was being pulled off Indian shelves in India.
Mattel added that many of the products on the recall list are no longer available on retail shelves because they are several years old.
Days after the Mattel's Fisher-Price recall, Chinese officials temporarily banned the toys' manufacturer, Lee Der Industrial Co., from exporting products. A Lee Der co-owner, Cheung Shu-hung, committed suicide at a warehouse over the weekend, apparently by hanging himself, a Chinese state-run newspaper reported Monday.
Lead is toxic if ingested by young children. Under current U.S. regulations, children's products found to have more than .06 percent lead accessible to users are subject to a recall.
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