Source AP ©

US toy industry's safety checks failed

The recent recalls of millions of playthings reflected the failure of the country's toy safety checks, the president of the U.S. Toy Industry Association said Tuesday.

Speaking to a seminar in Hong Kong for the local toy industry through recorded video, Carter Keithley said U.S. toy safety standards have been excellent for years, "but it was the toy safety testing and inspection process that had failed us."

Keithley said the recent recalls raised a "crescendo of concern" as importers became nervous about the potential extent of the problem.

"So they decided to check not only product ordered for this holiday season, but also products imported in prior years. This led to a succession of recalls," he said in product safety forum in Hong Kong.

More than 3 million lead-tainted toys from China have been recalled worldwide since June.

Since August, Mattel Inc., the world's largest toymaker, has recalled millions of Chinese-made toys, including popular Barbie, Polly Pocket and "Cars" movie items, because of concerns about lead paint and tiny magnets that could be swallowed.

Chinese food, drugs and other products ranging from toothpaste to seafood are under intense scrutiny because they have been found to contain potentially deadly substances.

Keithley said a program recently put in place by the U.S. industry to repair the safety testing and inspection process was not a quick fix to solve a "China problem" as it covers all countries.

"Any toy imported into the United States, from any country, will be required to pass through this system," he said.

"The steps we are taking are intended not only to reassure American consumers that the toys they buy are safe, but also to reassure them specifically that toys made in China are safe.

Jeffrey Lam, chairman of Hong Kong Trade Development Council's toy advisory committee, said Chinese toy manufacturers have also been proactive and pragmatic to make improvements in their toy production.

"I hope overseas buyers will understand China has changed," Lam said.

He said it is a shared responsibility for all parties involved in the production line to ensure the products are up to standard.

"Production costs have increased. Raw material prices have increased, but who's going to take responsibility for the increased cost? This is what I view as shared responsibility," Lam said in a separate phone interview with The AP later Tuesday.

Analysts say increased vigilance by toymakers and storeowners could add up to 10 percent to toy prices next year.