NEW YORK - Mattel Inc.'s reputation took another hit after the world's largest toy maker announced a third major recall of Chinese-made toys in little more than a month because of excessive amounts of lead paint.
The latest action, which involved about 800,000 toys and which was announced late Tuesday, is yet another blow to Mattel. The news, along with other recent recalls of tainted Chinese toys from other toy makers, could also make parents even more nervous about shopping for toys this holiday season.
The latest Mattel recall, whose details were negotiated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, covers 675,000 Barbie accessories sold between October 2006 and August of this year. No Barbie dolls were included in the action.
The recall also included 90,000 units of Mattel's GeoTrax locomotive line and about 8,900 Big Big World 6-in-1 Bongo Band toys, both from the company's Fisher-Price brand. The Big Big World products were sold nationwide from July through August of this year, while the GeoTrax toys were sold from September 2006 through August of this year.
Mattel's last recall, announced on Aug. 14, covered about 19 million toys worldwide. They included Chinese-made toys that either had excessive amounts of lead paint or had small magnets that could easily be swallowed by children.
On Aug. 1, Mattel's Fisher-Price division said it was recalling 1.5 million preschool toys featuring characters such as Dora the Explorer, Big Bird and Elmo because of lead paint. That action included 967,000 toys sold in the United States between May and August.
Robert Eckert, chairman and chief executive of El Segundo, Calif.-based Mattel, warned at a press conference last month that there may be more recalls of tainted toys as the company steps up its investigations into its Chinese factories and increases monitoring of production.
In a statement issued late Tuesday, Eckert said: "As a result of our ongoing investigation, we discovered additional affected products. Consequently, several subcontractors are no longer manufacturing Mattel toys. We apologize again to everyone affected and promise that we will continue to focus on ensuring the safety and quality of our toys."
Mattel added that it has completed its testing program for the majority of its toys and spent more than 50,000 hours investigating its vendors and testing its toys over the past four-week period.
Still, Mattel, which has cultivated an image of tightly controlling production in China, could face an uphill battle convincing consumers about the safety of its products this holiday season. The CPSC is also considering a possible investigation of whether Mattel notified authorities as quickly as it should have in connection with the Aug. 14 recall.
With more than 80 percent of toys sold worldwide made in China, toy sellers are also concerned shoppers will shy away from their products in this year's holiday season.
In June, toy maker RC2 Corp. voluntarily recalled 1.5 million wooden railroad toys and set parts from its Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway product line. The company said the surface paint on certain toys and parts made in China between January 2005 and April 2006 contains lead, affecting 26 components and 23 retailers.
In July, Hasbro Inc. recalled faulty Chinese-made Easy Bake ovens, marking the second time the iconic toy had been recalled this year.
A Chinese quality official said Wednesday that the country is investigating the latest recall.
Wang Xin, an official with the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine, said the agency, which oversees all products made in China, is trying to get details on when the toys were made and the manufacturers involved.
Mattel vowed as recently as last month it would tighten its controls at factories in China. About 65 percent of the company's toys are made in China, and about 50 percent of Mattel's production there is produced in company-owned plants.
The recalled toys in the Barbie accessory line included a Barbie Dream Puppy House, which had lead paint on the dog; a Barbie Dream Kitty Condo playset, which had lead paint on the cat; and a Barbie table and chairs kitchen playset, which had lead paint on the dog and dinner plates.
Mattel said in a statement that the Barbie products affected by the recall were produced by Holder Plastic Company, a Mattel contract vendor, which subcontracted the painting of miniature toy pets and small furniture pieces to Dong Lian Fa and Yip Sing. Both companies used uncertified paint and are no longer producing toys for Mattel, the company said.
Mattel added that its probe revealed that the subcontractors painted the affected toys between March 2007 and August 2007. However, Mattel said it's being cautious in recalling the entire production of the seven toys painted by the subcontractors, and toys made beginning in October 2006 are included within the recall.
Among the three Fisher-Price toys recalled are two GeoTrax toys and a toy from the Big Big World line.
The two GeoTrax toys were made by Apex Manufacturing Company Ltd., one of Mattel's contract vendors, which outsourced paint work to a subcontractor, Boyi Plastic Products Factory. Apex supplied Boyi with certified paint; however, the toys were made with uncertified paint. Boyi is no longer in business, Mattel said.
The GeoTrax toys were manufactured between July 31, 2006, and September 4, 2006; however, the painted parts were stored and incorporated into toy production throughout the year. Mattel said it is recalling toys shipped between August 3, 2006, and July 31 of this year.
Fisher-Price's Big Big World toy was manufactured by Shun On Factory, one of Mattel's contract vendors, which outsourced the molding and painting of one plastic piece. A subcontractor, Jingying Tampo Printing Processing Factory, used uncertified paint on the recalled piece.
For information about Tuesday's recalls, consumers should call Mattel at 888-496-8330 or visit the company's Web site at http://www.service.mattel.com.