China Says Only 15% Of Mattel Recalls Are Its Responsibility

China’s “chief safety watchdog” says that only 15% of Mattel’s recalls were due to manufacturing errors and also attempted to absolve China of responsibility for the formaldehyde-soaked children’s clothes found in New Zealand, according to Forbes:

Eighty-five percent of the roughly 20 mln toys that Mattel recalled were due to design faults, Li, the director of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, told reporters.

Li said only 15 pct were deemed unsafe due to Chinese manufacturers using dangerous lead in the paint.

‘So I would like to pose this question: the Chinese manufacturers have their share of the responsibility, but what kind of responsibilities do the American importer and the product designer have?’ he asked.

Speaking about the formaldehyde clothes, Li said:

The tests (by the Chinese government) found that the relevant textile products passed the standards for low fire danger and formaldehyde levels,’ Li told a news conference.

He said New Zealand had informed China last week that both the design and fire resistance levels of the garments conformed to the country’s standards.

Li also insisted the bad publicity over the dangerous products was having little impact on China’s exporters.

All this bickering over who is to blame for this stuff is giving Consumerist a headache. It’s everyone’s fault. Now fix it!

China blames design for Mattel recalls [Forbes]
(Photo:Dust Storm)


Edit Your Comment

  1. headon says:

    If Matell tells china to make toys with magnets and the magnets fall out, that is a design flaw. It’s not a manufacturing issue and therefor not the fault of China. However, everthing else that’s wrong with the whole world is China’s fault.

  2. mrjimbo19 says:

    For some reason I don’t see matell sending a production team in China instructions that have the words “please use lead paint on this child toy, it should go great with the fire t-shirts and the sandal burns”.

  3. TechnoDestructo says:


    It could still be a manufacturing error (improper quantity or type of adhesive, for example.)

    I haven’t seen anything yet to indicate whether that’s the case, though…

  4. teh says:

    @mrjimbo19: From what I’ve read about manufacturing and labor in China one cannot make any assumptions on the quality of type if it’s not specifically specified. If you want lead-free paint then you should have asked for lead-free paint. Thus from China’s perspective, Matell is at fault for not telling them not to use hazardous products.

  5. From Boston Globe:

    In the 19th century, a world power got a reputation for exporting substandard items, some even tainted: the United States.


  6. catnapped says:

    @teh: But what if they did ask for “lead free paint” and it just got lost in the translation?

    “Oh, you want free lead paint? Sure–we’ve got PLENTY!”

  7. marsneedsrabbits says:

    I only agree with the Chinese safety inspector part-way. Yes, design faults are the domain of Mattel or whomever, but so is the lead paint to a large degree.
    Look at it this way:
    It would have cost next to nothing for Mattel to lead-test batches of toys, but they chose not to do it. They decided not to spend that extra fraction of a penny per item on whether or not the painted toys kids would put in their mouths had poison in it. In this case, as the consumer, Mattel had to have something (lead-free toys) and had a way to check (testing one or two out of a batch of tens of thousands would cost a dollar or two even if they bought the tests retail over the internet.
    But, even though it was important, and even though it was dirt-cheap, Mattel decided not to bother.
    Sort of like when any other consumer anywhere else on the planet decided to totally trust the service or good provider without doing their homework, Mattel dropped the ball and got screwed, and so, in turn did the people who once trusted them with their kid’s safety.
    Is it the fault of the toy manufacturers? Yes, they get a heapin’ helpin’ of blame, too. But a big chunk of blame lies squarely with Mattel and they know it.
    And Headon? Everything else in the world is not the fault of China. It is the fault of Wal-Mart.

  8. bohemian says:

    Importers and US companies will do nothing about this until they are under the threat of serious financial punishment for selling dangerous items.

  9. Trai_Dep says:

    So when some Chinese manufacturer substitues plastic for C4 on a batch of toys, resulting in maimed babies across the world, their government will say, “Dumb American and European companies’ fault for not stating plastic explosives shouldn’t be used for children’s toys.” Got it. Thanks, China!

  10. Falconfire says:

    @headon: still could be related to manufacturing. I’m a model builder and know some people in the business. One of their biggest issues is China screwing up the final injections of models.

    A case in point would be the Polar Lights Star Trek D7 model. In the US the guy who made the mold they used had the details exact to a T. I saw the work model as did thousands of other people as we where all excited for this model to come out. But when it was shipped to China to make the print mold and eventually the kit, the Chinese company shrunk one side of the mold, and printed the entire line with the wrong mold, and had the balls to blame the guy who made it.

    We all knew they screwed it up, as we HAD SEEN the original mold they used but they still had the balls to blame Polar Lights.

    In the end it was never fixed since Polar Lights as part of the company that contained Johnny Lightning and a few other lines was sold to another company and the model line cut because they are a nitch business these days. But Ill never forget the months of bitter fighting dealing with who screwed up the model that all resulted from some ass in China not paying attention to the computer when they made the final mold.

  11. nequam says:

    I love the picture of Mattel getting the Lynndie treatment!!

  12. MyCokesBiggerThanYours says:

    Bottom line: If it says “Made in China” it’s your responsibility. You’ve put your name on it.

  13. rikkus256 says:

    @MyCokesBiggerThanYours: Well said.

  14. agent2600 says:


    Tian I hope you arn’t trying to stick up for china with this statement

    you are saying that china is good as america was 300 years ago?

    300 years ago no one knew what was tainted and what wasn’t, they were perscribing cocain for toothaches…

    oh wait…i forgot, in the 19th century wasn’t China the biggest drug dealer in the world?

    oh snap….you just got burned….

    if you haven’t already realized no one here is attacking the chinese people, we are attacking the way the country deals with things, so don’t try to pull shit like this to shift blame.

    ha asshole

  15. agent2600 says:


    your a total nerd, i love it

  16. phobs says:

    @agent2600: If you want to make comparisons to the past, this just looks like Korea and Japan 20-30 years ago. They start out with crappy knock offs of poor quality. Look where they are now. Now several of their companies are industry leaders. Only difference is China learned from them and they’re doing it faster.

    One of the striking things about the computer industry is that many brands of different quality are made in the same factory. Why are some brands so much more reliable? The companies pay the factories to ensure that they meet higher quality standards. Its not some accident or the result of lazy workers. Production quality is a science.

    If you run a multi-national corporation you should have a flock of people keeping track of quality. If you source to the lowest bidder you should be keenly aware of the dangers. If you want to place blame, I’d blame the people who end up padding their pockets when manufacturing goes to China. It sure isn’t the sweatshop worker or even the factory owner.

  17. BrockBrockman says:

    @phobs: Umm… I think I concur.

    You don’t hire cheap Tracy down the street at $5.00/hr to watch your kids when you know she’s going to let them stay up all night watching Adult Swim and eating junk food.

    You hire Tracy’s responsible older sister, Stacy, at $6.25/hr, who you know will put them to bed on time after brushing their teeth.

    And when Stacy’s not available, maybe you have to sit Tracy down and tell her you’ll pay her more if she does it right. Or, you babysit your own kids.

  18. Jesse in Japan says:

    If the design itself were flawed, wouldn’t that be more like 100% Mattel’s fault? Are they saying that, even with a fundamentally-flawed design, they still managed to screw things up even more 15% of the time?

  19. Anonymous says:

    China has destroyed world-wide manufacturing standards by enslaving their own people. Now their people are starting to revolt against the Communist Regime as the 2008 Olympics are looming. Corrupt American manufacturers (Mattel for example) have even been forcing Chinese slave factories to export their labor to more brutal slave countries such as Sudan and others that China receviers oil from. Your little girls Barbie-Doll is made by a slave in Sudan , Darfur, or some other country even more repressive than China. Remember this when you see the smile on her face Christmas morning. Your daughters joy has come at the suffering of girls less than her age in a slave nation. You can’t believe it, but it is true. Please quit buying low-quality products from China. Find an American maker for the toys for your children this Christmas. You will help keep your fellow hard-working Americans happy this holiday season.

    Dave H.
    Hard Workin’ American