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The Baez Law Firm | San Antonio Lawyers and Attorneys
San Antonio Lawyers and Attorneys

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Third giant recall jolts toy stores

Associated Press-For the third time this summer, toy stores across the United States were forced Tuesday to pull millions of Chinese-made toys from their shelves because they could harm children.
The recall adds to the concern among consumers and frustration among business owners over a growing list of Chinese products recalled this summer.
The latest recall by toy-making giant Mattel Inc. involved about 7.3 million dolls and action figures, including Polly Pocket, Barbie and Batman play sets, and 253,000 die-cast Sarge cars.
The dolls and action figures contain small magnets children can swallow and the cars could contain lead paint, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said.
Nancy A. Nord, acting CPSC chairwoman, told a news conference Tuesday that no injuries had been reported with any of the products involved in the recall.
"The scope of these recalls is intentionally large to prevent any injuries from occurring," she said.
Recalled
• 7.3 million Polly Pocket dolls and accessories (small magnets)
• 1 million Doggie Day Care play sets (magnets)
• 253,000 "Sarge" cars from the movie "Cars" (high lead levels)
• 345,000 Batman and "One Piece" action figures (magnets)
• 683,000 Barbie and Tanner play sets (magnets)
Consumers should call Mattel at 888-597-6597 for information about the recalled toys with magnets, or 800-916-4997 for information about the recalled cars.
* * *
What it means
• Lost sales opportunities
• Increased management costs
• Possible lower customer loyalty
* * *RELATED LINK
Press release: One product recalled for impermissible levels of lead
August 10 Opinion: Danger: Toys ahead
August 3 Lead scare prompts toy stores to clear shelves
Even so, the recalls are having an effect on parents and retailers. With about 80 percent of toys sold worldwide made in China, toy sellers are worried shoppers will shy away from their products.
"I think concern [among consumers] is growing," said Ken Maietta, an owner of Tons of Toys stores in Wyckoff and Chatham. "I think they [Chinese officials] should have fixed it after the Thomas recall."
Maietta was referring to June's recall by RC2 Corp. of 1.5 million wooden railroad toys and set parts from its Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway product line. The toys, which contained lead paint, were also made in China.
Lead paint also forced Mattel two weeks ago to pull nearly 1 million plastic preschool toys sold under its Fisher-Price brand. Included were "Sesame Street" and Nickelodeon characters, such as Elmo, Big Bird and Dora the Explorer.
The recent rash of recalls is having "a tremendous impact" on retailers, said Joanna Kennedy, the marketing communications manager at Tomax Corp., a Salt Lake City company that has developed software to help retailers run their businesses.
"It's been a hard year for retailers with these recalls, one after another, peanut butter, spinach, pet food, toys," Kennedy said. "It's just been an insane year for retailers."
Recalls translate into lost sales opportunities, increased costs to manage the recall and a possible "degradation of customer loyalties," if the retailer doesn't respond quickly, she said.
Big chains, such as Wayne-based Toys "R" Us got a jump start on Tuesday's recall through a call Monday from the manufacturer. As a result, all the toys involved had been pulled before Tuesday's official announcement.
Maietta said he usually gets e-mails from suppliers, but first heard of the latest recall on the radio while driving to work Tuesday and got the details from Mattel's Web site.
He immediately pulled all the merchandise on the recall list from his shelves and stored it in his basement until it goes back to Mattel for credit.
It's too early to gauge the long-term effect of the numerous recalls, Kennedy said.
There's a growing perception among consumers that goods made off-shore are less reliable than those made in the U.S., and that could change buying habits, she said.
Toys "R" Us also works to reassure customers that even with the recalls, "we have a lot of great toys on the shelf that are safe and have been tested," spokeswoman Kathleen Waugh said.
Mattel is also trying to reassure customers. In a full-page ad Tuesday in some U.S. newspapers, the company said it is "one of the most trusted names with parents" and was "working extremely hard to address your concerns and continue creating safe, entertaining toys for you and your children."
The ad was presented as a letter to "fellow parents" from Mattel chief executive Bob Eckert.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which negotiated details of Mattel's recalls, said several injuries had been reported in an earlier Polly Pocket recall last November involving three children injured by swallowing more than one magnet. Each suffered intestinal perforations that required surgery.
When more than one magnet is swallowed, they can attach to each other and cause intestinal perforation, infection or blockage, which can be fatal.
In all, at least one U.S. child has died and 19 others have needed surgery since 2003 after swallowing magnets used in various toys, the government said.
In March 2006, another toy company, Mega Brands Inc., recalled 3.8 million Magnetix magnetic building sets after one child died and four others were seriously injured after swallowing tiny magnets in them.
Mattel launched a full-scale investigation into all of its factories in China and discovered the latest problem during that investigation, Nord said.
In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Eckert said that the correct paint for the Sarge cars was sent to a subcontractor, who apparently "chose not to use the paint."
Lead is toxic if ingested by young children, and under current regulations, children's products found to have more than 0.06 percent lead accessible to users are subject to a recall.
"There is no excuse for lead to be found in toys entering this country," Nord said. "It's totally unacceptable and it needs to stop."
Days after the Fisher-Price recall, Chinese officials temporarily banned the toys' manufacturer, and its co-owner committed suicide. The company was under pressure in the global controversy over the safety of Chinese-made products, and it is common for disgraced officials to commit suicide in China.
Before this month, Fisher-Price and Mattel had never recalled toys because of lead paint.

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