Third recall for China-made toys
Mattel, the world's biggest toymaker, has announced its third major recall of Chinese-made products in a month.
About three quarters of a million toys are being recalled because they are decorated with paint containing too much lead, the US company says.
They include Barbie doll accessories and toy trains.
Mattel apologised for the new incident but the Chinese government insisted that people could still have "confidence" in Chinese-made products.
After a succession of recalls of Chinese exports ranging from tyres to toothpaste, health minister Chen Zhu insisted Beijing was "highly sensitive" to concerns over product safety.
But he added: "Over-sensitivity caused by only seeing one side of the picture, in medical terms, is called an allergy.
"I want to tell everyone that they can have confidence in the quality of Chinese products and food safety."
In the past month Mattel has recalled 18 million China-made toys because their paint was found to contain lead.
The Barbie accessories contained in the latest recall include:
- Dream Puppy House Playset (J9485) sold since 13 October 2006, because of the paint on the dog
- Dream Kitty Condo Playset (J9486) sold since 13 October 2006, because of the paint on the cat
- Table & Chairs Kitchen Playset (K8606) sold since 30 October 2006 because of the paint on two dinner plates, the dog, the crisp bowl and the salad bowl
- Bathtub & Toilet Bathroom Playset (K8607) sold since 30 October because of the brown colour on the cat
- Futon & Table Living Room Playset (K8608) sold since 30 October 2006 because of the brown colour on the cat
- Desk & Chair Bedroom Playset (K8609) sold since 30 October 2006 because of the brown colour on the dog
- Couch & Table Living Room Playset (K8613) sold since 30 October 2006 because of the yellow flower on the handbag.
Mattel has published details of all the items being recalled on its website.
Faults had come to light because it had recently introduced enhanced testing, Mattel said.
"We are being, open, honest and forthright with consumers with what has been going on," Brian Stockton, a senior Mattel executive, told the BBC.
"We are hopeful consumers will judge us by our actions, not by the fact that we discovered some sub-contractors who did not do the right thing."
In the past week, US branches of the retailer Toys R Us have recalled 27,000 Chinese-made paint and crayon sets after the wooden box packaging was found to contain lead.
A fortnight ago, about 300,000 items were recalled by US stores including SpongeBob SquarePants spiral address books and Thomas the Tank Engine spinning tops.
Beijing was quick to act after the first Mattel recall, revoking the licence to manufacture goods at a firm in Guangdong province.
The authorities have pointed out that of the billions of goods it produces every year, only a fraction are found to be faulty.
The first two Mattel recalls included Chinese-made Sarge die-cast toys from the Pixar film Cars, as well as some toys, including Polly Pocket, containing magnets that could come loose. That recall prompted a US senator to call for all toys imported into the country from China to be inspected.
Since the initial recall, Mattel has carried out inspections of all toy shipments from Asia as well as an audit of all its suppliers.
Christopher Devereux, managing director of ChinaSavvy, which helps foreign buyers find Chinese factories that make products such as plastic parts, said foreign buyers must constantly monitor and inspect their Chinese suppliers.
"I really don't have any sympathy for Mattel," he said.
"There's no excuse to let so much product go through with lead in its paint. They should be testing. It's not difficult. There are hundreds of quality control laboratories in China."