Fisher-Price recalls almost 1 million toys

Toy-maker Fisher-Price is recalling nearly 1 million toys — including the popular Big Bird, Elmo, Dora and Diego characters — because their paint contains excessive amounts of lead.

The worldwide recall being announced Thursday involves 83 types of plastic preschool toys made by a Chinese vendor and sold in the United States between May and August. A total of 967,000 toys are affected.

It is the latest in a wave of recalls that has heightened global concern about the safety of Chinese-made products.

The recall is the largest for Fisher-Price and parent company Mattel Inc. since 1998, when Fisher-Price had to yank about 10 million Power Wheels from toy stores.

David Allmark, general manager of Fisher-Price, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that the problem was detected by an internal probe and reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which works with companies to issue recalls.

Fisher-Price and the commission issued statements saying parents should keep suspect toys away from children and contact the company.

Under current U.S. regulations, children's products found to have more than .06 per cent lead accessible to users are subject to a recall.

Allmark said the recall was "fast-tracked," which allowed the company to quarantine two-thirds of the toys before they made it to store shelves.

Long-standing relationship with Chinese vendor

Allmark said the recall was troubling because Fisher-Price has had a long-standing relationship with the Chinese vendor, which had applied decorative paint to the toys. Allmark said the company would use this recall as an opportunity to put even better systems in place to monitor vendors whose conduct does not meet Mattel's standards.

"We are still concluding the investigation, how it happened," he said. "But there will be a dramatic investigation on how this happened. We will learn from this."

The recall follows another high-profile move from toy maker RC2 Corp., which in June voluntarily recalled 1.5 million wooden railroad toys and set parts from its Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway product line.

RC2 Corp. said that the surface paint on certain toys and parts made in China between January 2005 and April 2006 contain lead, affecting 26 components.

Carter Keithley, president of the Toy Industries Association, praised Mattel's quick response to the problem, and suggested Mattel will use this setback as a lesson for not only the company but for the entire industry.

However, he expressed concern about how the recall and other toy recalls will play out in consumers' minds in advance of the holiday season.

"We are worried about the public feeling," said Keithley. "We have thought all along that (consumers) can be confident in the products, but if companies like Mattel have this, then you have to ask how did this happen?"

Owners of recalled toys can exchange them for a voucher for another product of the same value.

For more information call 1-800-916-4498.

Company website

Recall notice