Retailing, Franchising, and Consumerism Business Intelligence in China

Mattel Apologizes, Says Chinese Manufacturers Not Responsible For Design

Recalling memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution where self-criticism was an art form, Mattel has apologized to China for recent toy recalls that brought humiliation to the manufacturing sector in the Middle Kingdom.

An executive from the American toy company reportedly apologized to Chinese officials in Beijing. However while many media reports play the apology as a kowtow to China, Mattel insists it apologized to the Chinese just as it has wherever its toys are sold.

Mattel says it is committed to working with the Chinese government and manufacturers to promote and improve the safety of toys and other consumer products. Safety of toys is a matter of critical importance to the company, whether they are made in China or elsewhere around the world, and the company says it has enjoyed a successful partnership with manufacturers in China for 25 years.

Mattel produces approximately 800 million toys annually. Out of these, less than 0.3% were recalled because of impermissible levels of lead contained in the paint and approximately 0.5% of the toys produced from 2003 to 2006 were recalled as a result of magnets which could become loose. The toys recalled worldwide in relation to magnet issues were 17.4 million pieces, and the toys recalled in connection with impermissible levels of lead in paint were 2.2 million pieces. The magnet related recalls were due to emerging issues concerning design and this has nothing to do with whether the toys were manufactured in China.

Mattel says it does not hold Chinese manufacturers responsible for the design in relation to the recalled magnet toys. Mattel has since changed the relevant design in January this year to effectively lock in the small magnets in the toys so that they cannot be easily detached.

Mattel informed the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee in a letter dated September 5, "The magnet-related recalls account for roughly 11.7 million of the recalled toys shipped to retailers in the U.S. The magnet-related recalls do not involve lead paint or manufacturing failures by Mattel or its vendors, including vendors in China."

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