WASHINGTON - Toy-maker Fisher-Price is recalling 83 types of toys — including the popular Big Bird, Elmo, Dora and Diego characters — because their paint contains excessive amounts of lead.
The worldwide recall being announced Thursday involves 967,000 plastic preschool toys made by a Chinese vendor and sold in the United States between May and August. It is the latest in a wave of recalls that has heightened global concern about the safety of Chinese-made products.
The recall is the first for Fisher-Price Inc. and parent company Mattel Inc. involving lead paint. It is the largest for Mattel since 1998 when Fisher-Price had to yank about 10 million Power Wheels from toy stores.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, David Allmark, general manager of Fisher-Price, said the problem was detected by an internal probe and reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The recall is particularly alarming since Mattel, known for its strict quality controls, is considered a role model in the toy industry for how it operates in China.
Fisher-Price and the commission issued statements saying parents should keep suspect toys away from children and contact the company.
The 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 sought 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. However, some news organizations prematurely posted an embargoed version of the story online.
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 Mattel's standards.
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.
"Anytime a company brings a banned hazardous product into the U.S. marketplace, especially one intended for children, it is unacceptable," said Nancy Nord, acting chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. "Ensuring that Chinese-made toys are safe for U.S. consumers is one of my highest priorities and is the subject of vital talks currently in place between CPSC and the Chinese government."
Carter Keithley, president of the Toy Industries Association, praised Mattel's quick response to the problem, and suggested Mattel will use this setback as a lesson for not only the company but for the entire industry. However, he expressed concern about how the recall and other toy recalls will play out in consumers' minds in advance of the holiday season.
"We are worried about the public feeling," said Keithley, adding he observed how toy companies are embracing strict controls during a recent toy safety seminar in China. "We have thought all along that (consumers) can be confident in the products," he said. "But if companies like Mattel have this, then you have to ask how did this happen?"
Owners of a recalled toy can exchange it for a voucher for another product of the same value. To see pictures of the recalled toys, visit http://www.service.mattel.com. For more information, call Mattel's recall hot line at 800-916-4498.
Here is the list:
List of model names and product numbers for the nearly 1 million recalled Fisher-Price toys, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission:
33662 Elmo Light Up Musical Pal
33663 Ernie Light Up Musical Pal
33664 Big Bird Light Up Musical Pal
34658 Elmo Stacking Rings
39038 Elmo Tub Sub
39054 Sesame Street Shape Sorter
87946 Elmo Keyboard
90267 Ernie Splashin' Fun Trike
90609 Elmo Collectible
90611 Cookie Collectible
90612 Zoe Collectible
90613 Ernie Collectible
90614 Big Bird Collectible
90745 Construction Playset
93068 Elmo Boom Box
93107 Action Fire Engine
93307 Press N Go Elmo
93308 Rev & Go Cookie Monster
93492 Cookie Saxophone
93493 Elmo's Guitar
93615 Splash Tub Puzzle
93780 Music And Lights Phone
B7554 Count To Beat Elmo
B7888 Shake, Giggle & Roll
B7987 Elmo in the Giggle Box
B7989 Silly Parts Talking Elmo
B9620 Dora's Talking House
C6908 Dora, Backpack, Perrito Figure Pack
C6909 Diego Figure Pack
C6910 Swiper Figure Pack
C6911 Boots, Tico Figure Pack
G3825 Dora Talking Vamonos Van
G5112 Sing With Elmo's Greatest Hits
G9717 Giggle Doodler
H2943 Grow with Me Elmo Sprinkler
H3343 Cousin Daisy
H3344 Birthday Dora
H5569 Elmo & Pals (Elmo, Cookie, Ernie)
H5570 Elmo & Pals (Elmo, Zoe, Big Bird)
H4187 Dora Figures in Tube
H4628 Water Fun Tote
H8236 Dora 3 Pack Figures in Tube
H8237 Blue 3 Pack Figures in Tube
H8238 Sponge Bob 3 Pack Figures in Tube
H9124 Chef Dora
H9125 Bedtime Dora
H9186 Giggle Grabber Ernie
H9188 Giggle Grabber Oscar the Grouch
J0338 Diego Talking Field Journal
J0343 Go Diego Go Antarctic Rescue
J0344 Go Diego Go Deep Sea Rescue
J0345 Go Diego Go Mountain Rescue
J0346 Go Diego Go Talking Rescue 4 X 4
J5935 Giggle Grabber Soccer Elmo
J5936 Giggle Grabber Chef Cookie Monster
J6537 Sesame Street Giggle Toolbelt
J6762 Queen Mami
J6763 Royal Boots and Tico
J6765 Prince Diego
J7983 Sesame Street Tub Pots & Pans
J9518 Sesame Street Giggle Drill
J9692 Dora's Talking Pony Place
K0617 Twins Nursery
K3414 Diego - Talking Gadget Belt
K3571 Go Diego Go Mobile Rescue Unit
K3580 Fairytale Adventure Dora
K4139 Go Diego Go Dinosaur Rescue
K4140 Toucan Motorcycle Rescue
L0305 Dora Figure
L3194 Surprise Inside Diego Eggs
L3215 Sesame Street Elmo Jack-In-The-Box
L3488 Sesame Street Birthday Figure Pack
L3507 Sesame Street - Super Boom Box
L5202 Birthday Dora
L5813 Diego Tub Trike
L8905 Pablo & Pals
M0351 Dora Figures Dora & Kitty
M0352 Dora Figures Diego & Bear
M0524 Go Diego Go Talking Gadget
M0527 Sesame Street Giggle Doodler
M0732 Dora's Talking House
M2051 Let's Go Rescue Center
M2052 Fairytale Castle