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Barbie sets withdrawn in new alert over toys from China

Barbie sets withdrawn in new alert over toys from China

Thousands of Barbie doll accessories imported from China are being taken off the shelves in the United Kingdom because of excessive levels of lead paint. The admission by Mattel, the world's largest toymaker, that its products do not conform to safety standards has revived concerns about subcontracting manufacturing processes to China's rapidly expanding industrial capacity.

Mattel has been forced to take millions of toys off the shelves in the United Kingdom and around the world this summer. The latest recall affects about 2,500 toys sold in the UK and up to 700,000 worldwide. Paint pigment on parts of seven Barbie accessory sets was found to exceed permissible levels and could, according to the company's website, "cause adverse health effects". Robert Eckert, chairman and chief executive officer of Mattel, said: "In August we promised that we'd continue to focus on ensuring the safety and quality of our toys. We discovered additional affected products. Consequently, several subcontractors are no longer manufacturing Mattel toys. We apologise again to everyone affected and promise that we will continue to focus on ensuring the safety and quality of our toys." Yesterday's product recall was the latest in a series of costly business decisions which have involved the suicide of Chinese factory managers and international recrimination over commercial liability for assembly errors. In an attempt to restore international confidence, Chinese manufacturers recently took foreign correspondents on a tour of factories to demonstrate that they were enforcing quality control checks. "China's toy-making industry is actually very good. It is not messed up like the Americans say it is," said Zhong Dechang, a top inspector in Guangdong.

The playsets affected by this week's recall were produced by Holder Plastic Company (Holder), a Mattel contract vendor which had subcontracted the painting of miniature toy pets and small furniture pieces to two Chinese firms.

Christopher Devereux, managing director of ChinaSavvy, which helps foreign buyers find Chinese factories that make products such as plastic parts, said many Chinese factories made high-quality products at unbeatable prices, but there were dubious manufacturers. Constant monitoring was required, he said. "I really don't have any sympathy for Mattel. There's no excuse to let so much product go through with lead in its paint. They should be testing. It's not difficult. There are hundreds of quality control laboratories in China."

The Barbie playsets in the latest recall

  • Dream Puppy House
  • Dream Kitty Condo
  • Table and Chairs Kitchen
  • Bathtub and Toilet Bathroom
  • Futon and Table Living Room
  • Desk and Chair Bedroom
  • Couch and Table Living Room