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Thu, Sep 13, 2007 - Page 10 News List

China promises safe toys in time for holiday sales

AP , BEIJING, CHINA AND SAO PAULO, BRAZIL

The Chinese-made toys that children will receive for Christmas this year will be safe, the head of China's product safety agency said yesterday, pledging that problems over the use of dangerous lead paint will be resolved in time for holiday exports.

Li Changjiang (李長江), the safety inspection chief, said differences with the US over how much lead paint could be used in toys were being worked out by product safety officials in both countries.

"Before Christmas, we will certainly provide children safer, better and more appealing toys. They will certainly like them," Li, who heads the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, told reporters on the sidelines of a food safety conference.

China has become a center for the world's toy-making industry, exporting US$7.5 billion worth of toys last year and accounting for nearly 87 percent of the toys imported by the US, according to China's commerce ministry.

But questions about the quality of Chinese toys, food and other exports have grown in recent months after a string of product recalls and import bans. Mattel Inc, the largest US toy company, has issued three product recalls this summer for Chinese-made toys, removing millions of units of Barbie doll accessories, toy cars and other products because of unsafe levels of lead or magnets that too easily detach.

Li reiterated the government's stance that part of the recalls were due to changes in US safety standards and were not the fault of the Chinese manufacturers. Still, he said, the issue "needs the common cooperation of the two countries to unify the standards."

On Tuesday, Chinese and US safety officials in Washington signed an agreement prohibiting the use of lead paint on toys exported to the US.

Li said one common international standard limits lead in toy coatings to 90 milligrams per kilogram. However, another stricter US standard allows 600 milligrams per kilogram but applies to all the toy's components not just its coating.

"Under that standard, some Chinese toys exported to the United States exceeded the total and were unqualified," he said. "Because of the differing standards, the two countries need to jointly cooperate on unifying the standards."

As part of the agreement with Washington, Beijing also pledged to step up inspections of its exports and take other steps to ensure that Chinese products meet US standards, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Li's agency said yesterday that three Chinese companies linked to the massive recall of Mattel toys have had their export licenses suspended.

Its statement said the three companies based in the southern province of Guangdong and the Shenzhen region, which it did not identify by name, were also temporarily banned from producing products for foreign companies.

Meanwhile, Brazil said on Tuesday it had banned imports from Mattel until the government can evaluate whether the US company is fully abiding by local safety regulations.

See:

Why all the lead in Chinese-made goods?

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