BEIJING (AP) — China will take harsh measures against makers involved in the recall of millions of potentially dangerous toys in the United States and other countries, an official said Thursday, ahead of a meeting with American quality officials on the problem.
Wang Xinpei, spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, stressed that China places great emphasis on the safety of children.
''We really care about toy safety, not only in exports but also in this country,'' Wang said at a regular press conference. ''China is responsible. We'll investigate the cases and severely deal with them.''
He did not give any details about the companies, the investigation or potential punishments.
Mattel Inc., America's largest toy-maker, on Tuesday recalled about 19 million Chinese-made toys worldwide, including popular Barbie and Polly Pocket, and warned that more could be ordered off store shelves.
The action comes nearly two weeks after Mattel ordered a global recall on 1.5 million Fisher-Price infant toys which were made in China because of lead-contaminated paint. In June, about 1.5 million Thomas & Friends wooden railway toys, imported from China and distributed by the RC2 Corp., were recalled also because of lead paint.
Also Thursday, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said its officials will meet with their counterparts from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in the United States next month.
Talks will be centered around strengthening cooperation in the toy industry between China and the United States, the agency said in an announcement e-mailed to The Associated Press. It did not give specifics on the date or venue.
The AQSIQ also said it ''welcomed American toy experts and officials, as well as foreign media to China to visit toy producers and laboratories.''
The notice said the agency was investigating the latest Mattel recall and was in talks with the U.S. product safety commission.
China has been struggling to win back consumer confidence in its exports after numerous recalls and bans centered around a variety of products, from seafood to toothpaste.
Leaders have issued new regulations, shut down businesses and revoked licenses in an effort to stem illegal practices.
The China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Light Industrial Products and Arts and Crafts, a group which represents toy makers, appealed to manufacturers in a notice posted Thursday not to take orders that are ''too big, too urgent or too cheap'' as ways to improve the quality of exports.
Lead paint or tiny magnets that could be swallowed triggered the latest Mattel recall, which includes Polly Pocket play sets, Batman action figures and 436,000 ''Sarge'' cars based on the character from the movie ''Cars.''
No injuries had been reported with any of the products and the broad scope of the recall was to prevent potential problems, the U.S. safety commission said earlier this week.
Several injuries had been reported in an earlier Polly Pocket recall last November. In all, at least one American child has died and 19 others have needed surgery since 2003 after swallowing magnets used in toys, the U.S. government said.
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, violating Mattel's rules by using paint from an outside source.
A Hong Kong newspaper said Thursday that Early Light has lost about 1 million Hong Kong dollars (US$128,000; euro95,450) as a result of the incident.
Early Light's chairman Francis Choi was not available for comment, his secretary said Thursday. She said all inquiries had to be directed to Choi.
Days after the Fisher-Price recall, Chinese officials temporarily banned the toys' manufacturer, Lee Der Industrial Co., from exporting products.
State media has reported that Cheung Shu-hung, a Lee Der co-owner, committed suicide at a warehouse over the weekend.