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China Exclusive: Four Chinese detained for involvement in Mattel toy recall
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10:17, September 22, 2007

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Police have detained four Chinese people involved in the recent recall of Chinese-made toys by U.S. toy giant Mattel, according to Li Changjiang, director of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

"The four suspects can expect criminal sentences," Li said in a meeting with Thomas Debrowski, executive vice-president of Mattel's global operations.

Li did not reveal their names but the four are alleged to have provided substandard paint to Lida Plastic Toys Co. Ltd, a contract manufacturer of Mattel. Lida's boss Zhang Shuhong committed suicide after the Mattel carried out the recall.

Li added that more than 300 domestic toy makers have had their business licenses suspended or revoked in a national quality overhaul.

Debrowski apologized to Li and the Chinese people on Friday for the inconvenience its company has caused to Chinese consumers, admitting that the vast majority of its toys were recalled as a result of design flaws rather than manufacturing errors by Chinese manufacturers.

Debrowski was not available to comment after the meeting. But a press release from Mattel said that a total of 17.4 million toys had been recalled because of loose magnets and those recalled because of impermissible levels of lead numbered 2.2 million. Mattel's annual toy output stands at nearly 800 million.

"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," said the press release.

"Mattel does not require Chinese manufacturers to be responsible for the magnet-related recalls due to design problems, " it said, adding that the company improved the design in January to prevent the magnets from falling off.

It also admitted that Mattel's lead-related recalls were "overly inclusive" as the company was "committed to applying the highest standards of safety for its products".

"The follow-up inspections also confirmed that part of the recalled toys complied with the U.S. standards."

But the company insisted the same high standards in the recall of its products have been applied in the EU and other countries despite the fact that some of these products may have met local safety standards.

Calling his conversation with Thomas Debrowski "frank", Li Changjiang said in a subsequent news briefing that he appreciated Debrowski's "impartial analysis" and his "responsible and honest explanations".

He said the conclusion of Mattel was basically consistent with the results of investigations carried out by the Chinese side, which showed that 87 percent of the 21 million recalled toys had design flaws while the remaining 13 percent contained excessive lead.

"Expanding the recall without disclosing the exact proportion of the recalled toys among its imports is not proper conduct. We hope the U.S. company can handle similar issues in a better way in future," he said.

China is the world's largest toy manufacturer, exporting 22 billion toys last year, about 60 percent of the world's total.

Source: Xinhua

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