Lead paint scandal hits more toy favourites
SpongeBob SquarePants and Thomas the Tank Engine are the latest victims of the Chinese lead paint fiasco that has already seen the recall of 18.5 million toys.
Now two more US firms have recalled items including SpongeBob SquarePants spiral address books and diaries, as well as Thomas the Tank Engine spinning tops and buckets.
The latest revelations have spurred calls in the US Senate for all imported toys from China to go through an expensive lead paint test.
Two firms, Martin Designs and Schyllings Associates, issued the latest recall of their products through the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. The agency put out a warning telling parents to take the address books and journals away from children because paint on the metal spiral bindings of the books and journals contained lead which is toxic if ingested by young children. The items cost about $2 (£1) in shops and have been on sale for a year.
They also found that Thomas and Friends and Curious George spinning tops and pails had too much lead and recalled them too.
The Chinese government has not commented on the latest recall, which has strained relations with the US after the recall of pet food, shellfish, tyres and now toys. Beijing points out that of the billions of goods it produces every year, only a small fraction are found to be dangerous.
Chinese regulators have blamed various unnamed paint suppliers for producing "fake" unleaded paint, which was used on millions of toys. They sold the products using fake documents certifying that the paint was lead-free. Long supply chains and cost control pressure left the manufacturers vulnerable to fraud.
Beijing has announced that in future manufacturers of toys for export will go through a " quality licensing" procedure as part of a new inspection system launched this week.
Officials maintained that the global recall of toys was the result of new industry standards, not poor quality. The Vice Commerce Minister, Gao Hucheng, said 18.2 million of the recalled products were withdrawn from sale because of a revision of international standards in May involving magnets.
"The US dealer voluntarily recalled the toys that were made and sold before 2007, which at the time conformed to standards. This is a very responsible action for the health of children and consumers," Mr Gao said at a news conference. "But strictly speaking, it has nothing to do with the toys' quality or its manufacturers," Mr Gao said.