JAMES HATTORI, host:
From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm James Hattori in for Alex Chadwick.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
And I'm Madeleine Brand.
Coming up, Newark, New Jersey tries a high-tech answer to crime.
HATTORI: But first, the news is less than playful for toymaker Mattel. The Consumer Product Safety Commission today announced a second recall for Mattel products in as many weeks. This time some nine million Chinese-made toys, some with magnets that could be swallowed by children, others with hazardous lead paint. Among the recalled toys, Polly Pocket dolls and Batman action figures.
Here's acting CPSC chairman Nancy Nord.
Ms. NANCY NORD (Consumer Product Safety Commission): Toy recalls are emotional because they impact children. The CPSC is dedicated to keeping all consumers safe. But we act especially swiftly and we speak loudly when the recall impacts our most vulnerable population group, our children.
HATTORI: Joining us to talk about the recall is Don Mays of Consumers Union. He's their senior director of Product Safety Planning and Technical Administration. This is a major recall by Mattel. How can a company even keep track of all the products in a country as vast in unregulated as China?
Mr. DON MAYS (Consumers Union): Well, it's very difficult. In fact, they've outsourced a lot of their toy-making to factories in China. But in the process of outsourcing, apparently they didn't have the safety net in place to make sure that all the toys that were being produced for Mattel in fact met our regulations and our safety standard.
HATTORI: Mattel supposedly has a pretty good track record, but what about other companies? How do we know they're doing as well as Mattel?
Mr. MAYS: Well, let's take a look at Mattel. Actually, there's a lot of discussion about Mattel's great safety record. But in the past 12 months, this is actually their fifth recall, and that doesn't speak of a particularly good safety record. The recent recalls that we've seen coming out of China extend well beyond that of toys.
I mean we've also heard of food being recalled or at least embargoed. There's been problems with toothpaste, problems with tires, even problems with appliances coming out of China. There's been a heightened concern about the quality and the safety of Chinese-made products.
HATTORI: What about the stores? Do they have any responsibility here?
Mr. MAYS: Well, we think that they should. In fact, we've advocated for that and I've testified in front of the Senate Commerce Committee, suggesting that the responsibility for product safety has to be shared among all pieces of the supply chain. Meaning it's not only the manufacturer but it's also the importer, the distributor and the retailer that has to share that responsibility.
If they were held responsible by let's say civil penalties that they could be charged if they bought unsafe products to the market, they would probably change the way they do business. One of the things that they would do is they would implement a pre-shipment testing and inspection process, whereby the goods that are designated for shipment would be inspected and tested by outside third parties to be sure that those products are safe prior to shipment.
That way it would avoid a shipment from being turned around if there were products on there that were unsafe. That process I know to be very effective; I've witnessed that process myself when visiting factories in China. We think that retailers should be paying for that service and manufacturers should also be insisting on it just to protect their own brand names.
HATTORI: Okay. But so now these toys are here now, and there's a problem that's been identified. What do parents do when they're looking at their children's toy basket?
Mr. MAYS: You know, that's a real problem because the whole recall process in this country really depends upon mass media such as NPR and Consumer Reports getting the recall information out into the public eye. Unfortunately, if people aren't listening, reading or watching at the right time, they're going to miss the news. Therefore we think it's important for people to arm themselves with information. And one of the ways you can do that is by going to www.recalls.gov.
HATTORI: Helpful advice. Don Mays of Consumers Union. Thanks so much.
Mr. MAYS: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.