Bill Totten's Weblog

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ugly Americans

Mattel sorry for 'design flaws'

BBC NEWS (September 21 2007)

Mattel has admitted that most of the toys recalled in recent safety scares had "design flaws" and that Chinese manufacturers were not to blame.

During talks in Beijing, a senior Mattel executive apologised for the damage that the incidents had done to the reputation of Chinese-made goods.

The recall of more than twenty million toys led some in the US to call for limits on the number of Chinese imports.

This followed other product scares over Chinese food, toothpaste and tyres.

'Full responsibility'

Until now, Chinese sub-contractors have borne the brunt of criticism over the recall of Mattel products over concerns about their excessive levels of lead paint.

The boss of one Mattel supplier was reported as having killed himself last month after toys his firm made for the US company's Fisher-Price subsidiary were among those recalled.

Chinese media reported that Zhang Shuhong, co-owner of the Lee Der Toy Company, had been found hanged in one of his factories.

Several firms have been fired, and Mattel has introduced mandatory audits on products coming out of Asia as well as tougher testing procedures.


"The vast majority of these products that we recalled were the result of a flaw in Mattel's design". -- Thomas Debrowski, Mattel

But Thomas Debrowski, Mattel's executive vice president for worldwide operations, said on Friday that the firm should shoulder the burden of responsibility for the safety breaches.

"Mattel takes full responsibility for these recalls and apologises personally to you, the Chinese people and all of our customers who received the toys", he told Li Changjiang, head of China's product quality watchdog.

"It is important for everyone to understand that the vast majority of these products that we recalled were the result of a flaw in Mattel's design, not through a manufacturing flaw in Chinese manufacturers".

He added that Mattel now believed it had recalled more products than was justified and that items which may have met US safety standards had been taken off the shelves.

Mr Li said this admission was "unacceptable", adding that "you cannot recall 10,000 products just because one is sub-standard".


However, he pledged to work with Mattel, which generates much of its profit in China, to ensure similar problems did not happen again.

"This shows that our co-operation is in the interests of Mattel", he said. "I really hope that Mattel can learn lessons and gain experience from these incidents".

Mattel has apologised to its customers on several occasions for the lapses, but also denied that it was slow to reveal safety concerns.

US legislators criticised Mattel earlier this month for the safety scares, with one Senator saying the problem "should not be happening in the US".


Bill Totten


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