China: It's Mattel's Fault That Chinese Companies Manufactured Toys Covered With Lead. What?

China’s General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (GAQSIQ) blamed Mattel for the recent lead contamination of nearly 1 million toys, saying that the toy maker did not adequately supervise their suppliers. Mattel’s oversight safeguards are widely regarded as the “gold standard” for manufacturing in China. From the LA Times:

The government placed part of the blame for the lead paint recall on Mattel and RC2, suggesting that they should have exercised more oversight.

“To prevent loopholes in quality control, overseas brand owners should improve their product design and supervision over product quality,” the watchdog agency said.

GAQSIQ then temporarily suspended the export licenses of two Chinese manufacturers, Lee Dur Industrial and Hansheng Wood, for their use of fake plastic pigment contaminated with lead. Still unknown: which Chinese company supplied the contaminated pigment.

China bans exports by 2 toy makers [LA Times]
(Photo: Violator3)

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  1. Plasmafire says:

    Here’s a question for you to ponder… What are they doing with all the recalled toys contaminated with lead?

  2. ptkdude says:

    @Plasmafire: Giving them to all the non-first born children in China?

  3. Lin-Z [linguist on duty] says:

    @Plasmafire:
    probably selling them in china

  4. mantari says:

    “It’s your fault for not stopping us from putting poison into your products!”

  5. superlayne says:

    I keep checking remember me, but it never does. Does it just hate me?

    Reguardless, China is just a bit clusterfs@#k of maufacturing.

    @Plasmafire: The toys are probably just being destroyed.

  6. Ringofire says:

    This Chinese sabre-rattling is reminiscent of the stunts the Japanese tried pulling in the 1930s. Perhaps the Chinese ought to consult a history book to see how well that ended up for the Japanese.

  7. homerjay says:

    “GAQSIQ then temporarily suspended the export licenses of two Chinese manufacturers, “

    adding– “Pending development of a new undetectable lead paint.”

  8. Buran says:

    “We fucked up but it’s your fault anyway”.

    Is this place run by phone/cable CEOs?

  9. Kloud says:

    @Buran: Exactly what I was thinking.

  10. agent2600 says:

    sorry, but today’s comment isn’t even going to try to be intelligent….all I have to say is

    FUCK YOU CHINA

    can someone second that?

    gosh, you have a problem and you just go and blame the other guy? What, is china run by republicans now? haha

  11. mopar_man says:

    can someone second that?

    I will. FUCK YOU CHINA.

    I’ve been trying very hard lately to try and buy stuff that ISN’T made in China.

  12. mantari says:

    And yet another fun faux quote…

    “Why couldn’t you have purchased products from us in a way that we couldn’t have poisoned?”

  13. Jean Naimard says:

    The Chinese are learning! Now, they are espousing the Anglo-Saxon-Personal- Responsibility-Thingâ„¢ (you know, “the poor made some bad decisions and willingly chose to be poor”), and are blaming their victims for their plight.

    Way to go China!!!

  14. hustler says:

    Too bad we need China to let us borrow money for war. Then maybe the US could do something about this garbage.

  15. jamar0303 says:

    Here in China I’ve known for practically forever that “Made in China” stuff is kind of… crap. iPods/Sony stuff are the only good “Made in China” media players (ah, the hilarity to see someone bring in a knockoff iPod nano into an Apple “authorized” reseller for repair), bad food is always a possibility (hint- go to Lawson or FamilyMart if at all possible instead of local-owned convenience stores, less chance of buying problematic food; go for the big foreign wholesalers instead of local supermarkets), even the DS Lites (made in China, all of them) are crap quality (I dropped it *1 foot* and the right hinge broke off). I’d like to leave the country, but I have one more year of high school to finish here. On the plus side, my visa (“dependent” status visa, for children whose only parents/relatives/guardians are in China) requires that I leave China or reapply at 18, and I know what I’m going to do.

  16. Tedinasia says:

    Nice to see some well thought out comments for debate here.

    China in its evolution is a manufacturing state, foreign companies contract with these manufacturers to make specific products.

    Bad design / “Crappy Products” ? They make what the Western World Designs and tells them to manufacture at a price / quality level that the Western importers ACCEPT.

    It IS, 100% the BUYERS responsibility to see that the products they are buying are made to those specifications.

    Many of the Western manufacturers hire Western specialist who’s job is to constantly check to see that the production is to spec, number 2 on any quality control checklist is paint lead content.

    (#1 is are they manufacturing the correct product)

    ALL toys manufactured before April 19, 2007 and and after July 6, 2007 contain acceptable levels of lead.

    SO what this says is that their (the buyers) independent inspectors apparently DID NOT inspect the production runs between these dates.

    Facts to consider:

    US Population: 3m

    China Population: 1.3b

    China’s Government infrastructure is about where the US was in the mid 50’s.

    Est China Government Revenue (Taxes paid) per household: $46 (2003)

    Est US Government Revenue (Taxes paid) per household: $8,977 (2004)

    Export Quantity per hour (Painted Toys): 1.2m (that have passed inspection)

    US Govt. acceptable level of lead in paint for children’s toys: >0.06%

    Estimated level of lead in recalled Mattel toys: >0.08%

    Please note: “LEAD FREE” does not mean 0% Lead by government definition, it only means “LESS THEN 0.06%”.

    Yes, lead is a dangerous material to developing children under 6, but in perspective any child who has been taken fishing has most undoubtedly come in contact with 100% lead sinkers.

    People, this hoopla is more of a Political Trade issue between our current administration and China then between a 0.02% excess lead level on paint.

    (I am a US Expat doing product Q/C inspections in Asia for the last 14 years…with 0 recalls.)

  17. Trai_Dep says:

    “We aim for one child per family while you do not. Since you Americans have so many spare children, what are you whining about?”

  18. Tedinasia says:

    ;-) TRAI_DEP…Your not helping !

  19. Trai_Dep says:

    Ted: there’s a common assumption among, well, everyone else besides China, that you don’t put poison in food, you don’t substitute anti-freeze for sugary additives, you don’t pass tires that unravel after hours of using them, and you don’t coat small objects – especially ones likely to be gummed by infants – with toxic, brain-destroying material. Especially products for export.

    It’s tragic that Chinese consumers have put up with this. It’s tragic that reporters covering consumer-related issues – well, any - issue honestly ar imprisoned. It’s tragic that their government is a malevelent force on both their people and the world at large. It’s for these reasons that there’s such resistance to Chinese blame-shifting.

    Other poor countries manufacture goods without purposefully poisoning consumers across the globe. It’s not b/c of their poverty. And the criminals doing this are obscenely rich.

    China’s problems aren’t related to their poverty, it’s due to their corruption. They’ll pay for this once they sink into bloody revolution, and the world will celebrate when it does. You’ll be unemployed when it does. And we’ll cheer that.

    While comparing stages of economic development is a cute talking point (good job – you pick that up from their PR firms, you do you work for one?), the simple fact is that when first world economies developed and committed similar sins, we knew a lot less about the negative impact of these policies. Now everyone does know. China does it regardless.

  20. andrewsmash says:

    Can’t we just blame Mattel for outsourcing their manufacturing and the Chinese for getting cheap on the material – that way everyone loses (just like the american consumers)!

  21. Dont Know Me? You Are Me. says:

    I work for a US company and am responsible for the manufacture of several products by contract factories in China.

    Please study TedInAsia’s comments for some very good clues about the Chinese business culture and how it allows stuff like this to happen. Besides the fact that Ted has several inaccuracies (typos?) in his post, he has clearly forgotten what it is like to practice ethical business behavior, Western style. Probably been in China too long.

    Fact is, ethics are very different in China, and there are cultural and historical reasons for this. (Read One Billion Customers, by James McGregor for a very good explanation.) In China it is OK to screw your customer as long as you don’t get caught. The prevailing attitude is: If you get shafted in a China business deal, it’s your fault for letting it happen.

    The fact that Mattel didn’t act under this assumption all along tells me that they just don’t belong in China.

  22. Tedinasia says:

    TD: Good reply…thank you.

    I agree with you on many points and no I don’t work for a C-PR firm. I am just very realistic about what I see on the streets everyday and how they effect global industry trends.

    Yes, there are things that need to be changed, yes there is a long way to go, but what I think most people don’t take into consideration is the scale of China (Population/Size) and how limited the government control is over the actions of it’s workforce.

    You are 100% correct, most of the time the PRC is steps away from a domestic revolution, the government knows this which is why it limits what it calls “subversive comments” in chat rooms.

    Because the country is so vast and information is limited, “Micro Revolutions” are held in check by force, but what would a revolution change at this point ? Further destruction of a week and limited infrastructure ?

    Revolution always sound exciting and full of potential for change, only you wake up the next morning after you have taken down the current government to find no one in charge, no electricity, no government services, hospitals, police…because you took away the government… you have basically Iraq.

    Education and awareness of what is going on outside the PRC is what is forcing change, people see that there is a better way to live, some see an opportunity to exploit, every society has these forces.

    Bad tires out of china > Firestone tire recall in the US.

    Food with improper ingredients out of China > Record recalls of food in the US with botchulism.

    Manufacturers do not make poisoned food on purpose, they want to stay in business next month and next year.

    It is lack of education and control policies as industries struggle with growth.

    You don’t just go to one source to buy 0.06% white chroma lead paint, because if they go out of business you have no supplier, you work with 4 or 5 suppliers at one time, they in turn are working with many subcontractors for their materials. There might be 30 different sub suppliers that have touched that one white paint your buying…and anywhere along that supply chain mistakes can and will be made when your dealing with basically 3rd world manufacturing processes.

    I am not defending it, I am not saying it is right, only that this is the reality. It truly is.

    It is a slow hard fight to make things change for the better.

    The fact that we are even discussing this on a world wide free forum, signals that change is happening.

  23. Tedinasia says:

    Apologies Knave, if I was not clear with my point & at times I agree with you that I have been here too long ! Not sure where i was off on the numbers as well, they are pretty well documented in the press.

    Ethics of each country are indeed different, but the ethics of global business are not.

    You protect your client and their product as it pertains to the import regulations of the country it is bound for.

    The world is not a fair place and it is definitely not an even playing field. Japanese clients have different expectations then US clients, etc. If my client gets “Shafted” on a business deal, it is indeed my fault for not anticipating the dangers of working with that supplier…and my client could care less about an ethics lesson at that point.

    Possibly you are correct about Mattel, but they have been doing it “Right” for many many years, maybe they became complacent for those 2 months, maybe a change of in country management, cutbacks, I am sure we will never now exactly.

    Best of luck with your mfg. over here, I know it is not easy…and there are no easy answers.

  24. BrockBrockman says:

    This is a tough call. Blame the large corporation or the shady manufacturing nation? I’ll flip a coin to decide – but don’t be surprised if it lands on its edge.

    Then I’ll be able to read all of your thoughts.

  25. miborovsky says:

    Ted makes very good points. Too bad most people are either too biased or stupid to read and comprehend it.

  26. driver905 says:

    TEDINASIA Says:
    Facts to consider:
    US Population: 3m

    Am I the only one who is going to point out that the 2000 US census reports a population of 281 million?

  27. Trai_Dep says:

    Heh heh. I guess Miborovsky was too “biased or stupid” to not catch that the US has more than three million people.

  28. BrockBrockman says:

    @driver905: Yeah, I thought the 3m number was a bit off. The McDonalds up the street has served about 10 times that many people.

    Where did the 0.08% number come from, and why would it be okay (despite federal standards) to even have 0.06% lead, or 0.08% (mathematically a 33% increase over the federal standard) in a young child’s toy? It’s one thing to have 0.06% lead in house paint, but last I checked little kids don’t put houses in their mouths on a regular basis.

    As for lead sinkers … I think those are totally outdated. I think depleted uranium would be the better choice due to its density.

  29. Tedinasia says:

    300m I stand corrected on a 2am rant…tks.

    3m would be nice however…

  30. shoegazer says:

    @Tedinasia: My suggestion is to ignore the China bashers on this thread. Your comments are a dose of reality. At the moment it suits everyone’s purposes, from government to the retailer down to the consumer to have a bogeyman to blame. Never mind that ultimately Mattel IS responsible for choosing and clearing its suppliers. Of course fifteen years ago it could have been Korea, thirty years ago it was Japan’s “crap” automobiles.

    It’s never the seller’s duty to inspect and clear its suppliers, right? Even in a “vertical” supply chain where every component / ingredient is owned and manufactured by a single company the raw materials will have to be sourced somewhere, at the moment that somewhere is China.

    Trai_dep talks about bloody revolution because hey, what’s a few million deaths when I can get my seafood fresh and my toys lead-free? Let these chinks die, more gas for my HUMMER and less non-Americans to worry about. Disgusting.

  31. Tedinasia says:

    SG: Thank you for your comments…truly.

    Not sure if anyone is still following this post…

    In a side note, this (see below) just came across my desk this morning, the owner of Lee Der took his life this weekend.

    The men and women who own these factories, care very much about their products and reputation in the industry.

    Br, T

  32. Tedinasia says:

    Chinese Toy-Factory Owner

    Commits Suicide Amid Recall

    By NICHOLAS ZAMISKA

    August 13, 2007 5:56 a.m.

    HONG KONG — An owner of a Chinese toy factory at the center of a major recall by Mattel Inc. earlier this month committed suicide, according to a Chinese public security official.

    Cheung Shu Hung, an owner of Hong Kong-based Lee Der Industrial Co., killed himself on Saturday afternoon at his factory’s warehouse in China’s southern Guangdong province, according to someone contacted at the public security bureau in Guangzhou. News of Mr. Cheung’s suicide was first reported in Southern Metropolis Daily, a Chinese newspaper.

    Last week, the American toy giant identified Lee Der as the factory that made nearly a million toys, including characters from Sesame Street and Nickelodeon, which were recalled about two weeks ago because they may have been tainted with lead paint. Lee Der, which makes toys in Guangdong province, has been a long-time supplier for El Segundo, Calif.-based Mattel.

    An employee at Lee Der’s office in Hong Kong declined to comment when reached by telephone on Monday afternoon. Mr. Cheung’s family was unavailable for comment.

    –Zhou Yang in Beijing contributed to this article.

  33. LeopardSeal says:

    China: It’s everyones fault but mine.

  34. iKnow says:

    @Plasmafire: Mattel is probably going to give them to children in third world countries when Christmas time comes around and use it as a tax write off. That’s what will most likely happen to them.

  35. iKnow says:

    SHOEGAZER, you couldn’t be anymore right. Ignorant morons like AGENT2600 and MOPOR_MAN are just sheep led by the blind. So what, does Mattel hold no responsibility at all in this matter? Because they claim they “didn’t know”? or because they are and American company and thusly are never wrong in International matters right? I’m sure that all this China bashing in the news lately has nothing to do with America’s HUGE trade deficit with China either. Seriously people, wise up, and stop with the ignorant comments, what are you some backwoods hillbilly with a phoneline in your swamp house?