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Sat, Oct 13, 2007 - Page 10 News List

J.C. Penney pulls products from China, Taiwan

SAFETY STANDARDS Amid the latest recall over lead levels, Chinese firms are being told to protect themselves when signing contracts with foreigners

AGENCIES , WASHINGTON AND BEIJING

More than 90,000 children's products, most imported by J.C. Penney Co, are being recalled for containing dangerous levels of lead, a US government safety group announced.

J.C. Penney recalled Chinese-made Winnie the Pooh play sets and decorative ornaments with a horse theme, as well as art kits made in Taiwan and Vietnam.

Totaling 70,400, the toys imported and sold by J.C. Penney all had excessive levels of lead in their surface paint.

Consumer Product Safety Commission spokeswoman Julie Vallese said this round of toy recalls is "the direct result of the commitment that was made earlier this summer of cleaning the proverbial house."

"We anticipate that we will continue to find products that are in violation, but we also anticipate that the number of products that are in violation will go down," Vallese said.

Due to the recent increase in recalls of lead-contaminated toys, J.C. Penney asked an independent laboratory to perform additional tests on its painted toys, company spokeswoman Darcie Brossart said. This process started sometime in August, she said, and the company alerted the commission to a potential recall just under two weeks ago.

An additional 20,300 Chinese-made toys were recalled by three other companies, according to the commission. Miniature Jeff Gordon NASCAR helmets by Riddell Inc, bendable dinosaur toys by Kipp Brothers and magnetic art kits by Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores also were recalled for lead-contamination.

As the quality of Chinese goods has come under international scrutiny lately, a Chinese newspaper said yesterday that Chinese toy makers must be more cautious signing contracts with foreign firms to avoid product safety problems, but must also boost their game and start designing themselves.

The International Business Daily, run by the Commerce Ministry, said in a front-page story that though the reputation of "made in China" had been restored of late, the toy sector in particular was not yet out of the woods.

"We must squarely face the problems which exist in the development of our toy industry, the first of which is that there are still hidden dangers for toy quality and safety," the newspaper said.

But a major issue was also that the industry had a lack of "sense of self protection," it added.

Companies should sign proper contracts, not commit themselves to unrealistic production targets and "be cautious about accepting orders," the report said.

"When signing contracts, clearly state responsibility for quality, pay attention and be on guard to operating risk," it said.

"There are many cases where producers and sales companies do not sign formal contracts. Once there is a quality or safety dispute, it's hard to work out where the management responsibility lies," the report said.

Reducing reliance on simply making toys for other brands and creating a unique product of their own were other suggestions.

"Establish brand consciousness, strive to create your own name and develop high quality goods," the paper said.

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