The global recall of Chinese-made toys by Mattel Toys, the largest toy maker in China, has had a major impact on the Chinese toy industry, which shipped around 300,000 batches of toys to the US and Europe last year last year.
Hit by a series of recalls from US stores, US importers and manufacturers who sourced toys under their own labels from China, have cancelled their orders or terminated their contracts leading to closures of several toy factories in China and workers finding themselves jobless.
Last Saturday, Hong Kong businessman Cheung Shu Hung, of the Li Der Toy Company that had made the toys involved in Mattel's second recall had committed suicide in his office.
Chinese made products today have been held responsible for about 60 per cent of all product recalls, compared with 36 per cent in 2000.
The latest recall from Mattel involves toys made by Chinese manufacturers, which were reportedly coated in toxic lead paint or contained magnets harmful to children. These toys include Barbie Dolls, Batman action figurines and Polly Pocket playsets for the company's Fisher-Price unit.
Earlier on 1 August, Mattel had issued its first recall of toys, taking a charge of $30 million on the recall.
Total number of manufacturers
Main export category
Export value in 2005
|Guangdong ||More than 5,000 ||Plush toys, electronic toys, plastic toys ||$11.934 billion |
|Jiangsu ||More than 700 ||Plush toys ||$850 million|
|Zhejiang ||More than 1,000 ||Wooden toys, baby bicycles ||$871 million|
|Shanghai ||More than 700 ||Baby bicycles, strollers ||$549 million|
|Shandong ||More than 550 ||Plush toys ||$367 million|
|Fujian ||More than 500 ||Electronic toys, plastic toys ||$226 million|
Prior to that in June, this year, US toy maker RC2 Corporation had announced a recalling of an array of its Thomas & Friends trains, Thomas-the-tank toys and accessories for using toxic lead paint.
All the recalled toys had been found to contain higher than permitted quantities of lead paint, which, if ingested, could neurologically impair a developing child.
Every one of the 24 kinds of toys recalled for safety reasons in the US so far this year have been made in China.
Over all, the number of products made in China that have been recalled in the US by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission has doubled, driving the total number of recalls in the country to 467 last year, an annual record.
The recent recalls by the US of Chinese-made tyres, exploding Chinese cell phone batteries, pet food, and in other countries of Chinese-made pharmaceuticals and toothpaste, has left China facing a near impossible task struggling to convince the world that its products are safe
The China Toy Association, representing manufacturers and suppliers, said in a statement that the production of poor-quality goods was not deliberate. "The industry itself did not mean to produce poor-quality goods and paid a heavy price for its mistakes," it said.
The Chinese government also said that it would send officials to the United States to discuss product safety.
A 39-page paper from the Chinese government's State Council Information Office sought to reassure consumers with detailed statistics to show the country's food products were safe and getting safer.
The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, which oversees the quality of China's exports, told AFP yesterday that the "vast majority of China's exports to the US conform to US standards."
The China Toy Association, reacting to the first Mattel recall on 1 August, said in a statement posted on its website late on Tuesday: "The safety level of Chinese toys can be trusted."
Meanwhile according to a report in The Straits Times says the Chinese government had imposed a news blackout in Foshan, an hour away from Guangzhou, where the manufacturer that made the recalled Mattel toys is located. Its boss committed suicide last week.
A government-ordered news blackout in China is a common way of dealing with sensitive news that could incite public anger or embarrass the government or provincial authorities.
Despite the Chinese government's resolve to tighten supervision and crack down on crafty manufacturers, there appears to be no end to the stream of safety problems that taint China's manufacturers unfavourably.