Faulty designs responsible for 75% of toy recalls: study

A new Canadian study examining toy recall records suggests that while problems have been found in China's factories, toy companies are also to blame for faulty designs.

A new Canadian study examining toy recall records suggests that while problems have been found in China's factories, toy companies should shoulder their fair share of the blame for faulty designs and varying standards.

Researcher Hari Bapuji, of the University of Manitoba's Asper School of Business, combed through toyrecall records issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission since 1988 through August 2007. The report has been submitted to the Asia-Pacific Foundation for publication.

"For about 15 years we didn't see much of a change, a small annual variation is there which goes up and comes down," Bapuji said Friday.

"But from 2006 we saw a little bit of an upward trend. Designs [account for] about 75 per cent of the recalls each year … and the manufacturing flaws are 10 per cent each year."

Made-in-China toys have come under scrutiny in recent months for safety concerns. On Aug. 1, Mattel recalled about 1.5 million preschool toys for high lead levels. The company subsequently issued a second, larger recall of more than 18 million toys on Aug. 14, saying magnets embedded in the toys as well as high lead levels posed a safety threat to young children.

On Tuesday, Mattel ordered a third recall of about 844,000 toys with unsafe lead levels. All the toys were made in China. Other recent recalls of made-in-China toys include Thomas the Train products and Toys "R" Us art kits, in both cases for unsafe lead levels.

Bapuji said the onus is on the toy companies to ensure that manufacturers are meeting safety standards.

"The big toy companies that have outsourced the manufacturing to China and a lot of countries in southeast Asia should have systems to make sure that the toys that leave those factories, the toys that come here, meet the expectations, meet the standards in this part of the world," Bapuji said.

"What I see happening is[the toy companies]seem to be putting the blame on the Chinese manufacturers and escaping their own responsibility,"he said.

Customer feedbackcan help fix design flaws

Bapuji said toy companies should learn from past mistakes anduse customer feedback as a means of improving their products.

Since August, Mattel Inc. has recalled more than 20 million toys that were manufactured in China. ((Pat Roque/Associated Press))

"I would want to go back and see which of my products have been recalled, which of my products have created some kind of problems for kids. Have there been some reports of toys failing? The parts coming off?" he said.

"Those things I think we have to take seriously and rectify them in the future design."

The study notes the Chinese government must also play a part in ensuring and monitoring the safety of export products.

A June Decima research poll on Canadian consumer confidence in Chinese-made products found that 28 per cent of respondents said such products were not safe at all and 33 per cent said they're not all that safe.