Toys based on Sesame Street characters Big Bird and Elmo have joined Thomas the Tank Engine in a U.S. recall of "Made in China" products Thursday as Beijing pledged to work with Washington to improve product safety.
Dora the Explorer and Diego characters were also included in the latest in a string of safety recalls of Chinese products came from Fisher-Price, which said it was asking for a voluntary return of almost 1 million toys.
The problem with the recalled toys was detected by an internal probe and reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, David Allmark, general manager of Fisher-Price, told The Associated Press Wednesday.
Fisher-Price and the commission issued statements saying parents should keep suspect toys away from children and contact the company.
China "attaches great importance to product quality and food safety and is highly responsible," said Wei Chuanzhong, an official with the General Administration for Quality Supervision,
Inspection and Quarantine, one of China's product safety watchdogs.
"We want to cooperate with other countries including the U.S. to strengthen cooperation and communication," Wei was quoted as saying Wednesday on the administration's Web site.
However, Wei added that while China would "not avoid our problems, we also do not agree to playing up the situation regardless of the facts.
An official surnamed Xia said the General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine had heard about the recall but could not comment because they were investigating the case.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission works with companies to issue recalls when it finds consumer goods that can be harmful. Under current regulations, children's products found to have more than .06 percent lead accessible to users are subject to a recall.
Allmark says the recall was "fast-tracked," which allowed the company to quarantine two-thirds of the toys before they even made it to store shelves. In negotiating details of the recall, Fisher-Price and the government agreed to withhold details from the public until Thursday to give stores time to get suspect toys off shelves and Fisher-Price time to get its recall hot line up and running.
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 the standards of Fisher-Price parent Mattel.
He added: "We are still concluding the investigation, how it happened. ... 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.
The company said that the surface paint on certain toys and parts made in China between January 2005 and April 2006 contain lead, affecting 26 components and 23 retailers.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press