Source AP ©

Walt Disney Co to test its toys independently

The Walt Disney Co. decided to independently test toys featuring its characters.

The media and entertainment conglomerate will hire companies to randomly buy Disney-branded toys from store shelves and test for lead paint and other safety issues such as small parts that could come loose, Disney consumer products spokesman Gary Foster said.

He said the ultimate responsibility for safety still lies with companies that license Disney characters for toys.

"But Disney wants to give an added level of scrutiny and assurance to parents that a product with a Disney character has gone through this process," Foster said.

Disney's move comes as retailer Toys 'R' Us Inc. has stepped up its toy inspection efforts.

Disney will also start requiring licensees such as Mattel to submit their own test results before allowing products to hit shelves.

Foster said the company would be hiring more people in its product integrity office to oversee the program.

The tests will begin in the next two weeks and will include all categories of products, including toys, jewelry and children's clothing from about 2,000 licensees, including Mattel, which is the largest maker of Disney-related toys.

A call to Mattel seeking comment was not immediately returned.

The consumer products division accounts for only about 9 percent of Disney's revenue. Still, problem with toys affects the Disney brand, a huge concern for the company, analysts said.

"It makes sense they will do anything they can to protect their brand," said SMH Capital analyst David Miller. "It's a natural move you'd expect given the fallout in confidence in Mattel."

In a little more than a month, Mattel has recalled more than 21 million Chinese-made toys worldwide over worries that they were tainted with lead paint or contained small magnets that could be swallowed by children.

Among the items recalled were 436,000 cars based on "Sarge," a character in the Disney-Pixar movie "Cars," that were believed to contain lead paint.

Meanwhile, Toys 'R' Us has alerted its branded toy suppliers that starting this week it will use an independent laboratory to test every product, according to Kathleen Waugh, a company spokeswoman.

Last month, Toys 'R' Us began using the Bureau Veritas Consumer Product Services lab to systematically check toys carrying the Toys 'R' Us label.

Waugh said Toys 'R' Us began to increase spot testing of its toys in late spring and early summer in reaction to a string of recalls.

With the three recalls by Mattel, Toys 'R' Us believed it needed to do more to ensure the safety of the toys.

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