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Kiddie Crisis

Posted At: April 9, 2008 12:09 PM
by Erin Cornelius

Imagine your child is seriously ill from lead poisoning. As a parent, it is your duty to protect your child from dangerous and harmful things. But, what if that danger comes in the form of a Fisher-Price toy? That’s right; your 4-year-old’s toy train set could very well be painted with pigments containing high levels of lead.

According to a September 2007 press release, Mattel Inc. began recalls of Fisher-Price and Barbie brand toys in August 2007 due to “impermissible levels of lead.”

In a previous press release from August 2007, Mattel detailed its beefed-up check system in hopes to prevent future problems with lead paint. Jim Walter, senior vice president of Worldwide Quality Assurance for Mattel Inc., describes the corporation’s improved three-point check system: “First, we’re requiring that only paint from certified suppliers be used and requiring every single batch of paint at every single vendor to be tested. If it doesn’t pass, it doesn’t get used.” The other points in the check system include unannounced random inspections and testing of each batch of finished toys before they reach store shelves, said Walter.

All of the recalled toys were manufactured in China. In total, between August and October 2007 Mattel Inc. recalled more than 820,000 toys in the United States alone.
Meanwhile, toy rival Hasbro has not recalled a single toy due to lead-painted toys.
In a letter on its Web site from top management, Hasbro addresses customers’ fears about the lead paint scare: “At Hasbro, we know that setting high standards is not enough. Companies must ensure that their standards are being adhered to, and we do. We have very robust lead paint testing and inspection procedures in place to ensure that our stringent standards are met.”

Mattel has done an excellent job reacting to its lead paint issues. By immediately working with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and recalling all effected toys, Mattel helped curtail any legal concerns that could arise, but its reputation is another story.

Mattel is going to have to do more than make statements about increased safety standards and show some results if it wants to regain the trust of the American consumer.

Hasbro, on the other hand, is facing a whole different issue. When consumers hear about toy recalls, they don’t limit worries to one toy company. To defend its name and reputation, Hasbro proudly displays information on its Web site’s home page about the safety of its toys.

Executives at Hasbro also ran commercial spots concerning toy safety to ensure that consumers understood that the company’s products were not involved in recalls.

Both toy companies have worked hard to calm consumer fears and to increase controls on Chinese production plants to prevent similar recalls in the future. Al Verrecchia, chief executive officer at Hasbro, understands consumers’ concerns and responded to those concerns in a letter on the Hasbro Web site: “We continue to take the safety of our children—mine and yours—very seriously. That’s my commitment to you—as a CEO, as a parent, and as a grandparent.”

Hopefully, these companies will get this mess sorted out, and toys can finally be fun again.

Goldner, Brian, and Verrecchia, Al. (2007). You should feel good about buying Hasbro toys and games! Retrieved March 10, 2008

Verrecchia, Al. (2007). Letter from Al Verrecchia. Retrieved March 10, 2008

(Sept. 4, 2007). Mattel Announces Recall of 11 Toys as a Result of Extensive Ongoing Investigation and Product Testing. Retrieved March 10, 2008

(Aug. 14, 2007). Mattel Announces Expanded Recall Of Toys. Retrieved March 10, 2008 from

As a consumer, what do you expect of toy companies? Did Mattel react appropriately to the lead paint crisis?

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