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CHILDREN'S TOYS – A SLOW DEATH FROM CHINA?

15-08-2007

I'm a barbie girl

"Made in Hong Kong" used to identify "cheap" products, but that label has now shifted a few miles east to the mainland of China. But can we trust what we buy? Andy Goff thinks it's time to say "NO" more often.

As the father of a four year daughter I am well used to being asked "Can I have one of those?" as we stroll around shops or watch CITV together. The answer is usually a firm "NO" but sometimes my generosity gets the better of me and I relent. Usually it involves purchasing a "mazagine" (as she still quaintly calls them) at a vastly inflated price based purely on the contents of the toy attached to the front cover.

I make the assumption the toys linked with well known television programmes are safe for my child to play with. As more than 80 per cent of the world's toys are manufactured in China, I presume the majority of these magazine toys come from there.

We, thankfully, have had stringent consumer laws controlling the safety of toys in this country for many years now and I suspect we have become rather relaxed about questioning what it is we are buying. But recent news should jar us out of our complacency.

Toy-maker Mattel ran a full page advert in several United States newspapers to reassure consumers that the company was "working extremely hard to address your concerns and continue creating safe, entertaining toys for you and your children." [Link here but note the small print! ] They have had to recall 18 million toys which contain magnets that can come loose, including Polly Pocket, Batman, Doggie Day Care and One Piece play sets.

This is the second recall of products Mattel has had to make in two weeks, after it was found some toys contained unacceptably high levels of lead in paint. Fisher-Price has also had a problem with lead in paint.

The Chinese authorities have acted by temporarily banning the export of products made by Lee Der Industrial Company, and one of the company's co-owners, Cheung Shu-hung, lived up to his name by allegedly hanging himself last weekend.

The issue has now entered the American election campaign with candidates, including Hilary Clinton, using the "made in China" problems as a call to patriotism.

Although three children have apparently been injured by loose magnets from Polly Pocket play sets, the good news is that the problems were discovered, reassuring us that the system works. But I wonder now if we should be a little more circumspect in relenting to childish demands and say NO more often?

What do you think? Chinese goods shoddy or the way forward? Leave a comment on the message board.

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