WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mattel Inc, the world’s largest toymaker, is recalling over 170,000 Mexican-made toy kitchens sold in the United States and Europe because small pieces pose a choking hazard to young children.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said on Tuesday about 155,000 of the Fisher-Price “Learning Kitchen” toys were being recalled nationally.
A European official said about 17,000 of the toys were being recalled. Around 7,000 products have been withdrawn in Britain and Ireland, while 4,900 have been recalled in Italy, 4,900 in Germany and 394 in Austria.
Millions of Chinese-made toys, including 21 million sold by Mattel, have been recalled worldwide recently due to excessive levels of lead paint and other unsafe components.
The U.S. safety agency said it had 48 reports of small parts separating from the kitchen toys, including four reports of children gagging or choking on the pieces.
Tuesday’s recall came just a day after the chief executives of major toy companies including Mattel, Hasbro Inc and Hornby met the European Union’s consumer chief to discuss the consequences of the widespread recalls.
“My message to industry is very clear -- they are going to have to significantly raise their game,” EU Consumer Protection Commissioner Meglena Kuneva told Reuters after the latest recall announcement by Mattel. “They risk, if they do not take action, to lose the trust of Europe’s consumers. That trust has been badly shaken in recent months.”
“RECALLS SHOULD BOOST CONFIDENCE”
However, in an interview with Reuters, Bryan Ellis, chairman of Toy Industries Europe, said the toy recalls should reinforce consumer confidence.
“This latest recall is unfortunate, but it shows that our systems are working and we are checking at every stage,” Ellis said.
Authorities in Europe and the United States are carrying out a root-and-branch review of their toy safety regulations in light of the huge number of recalls. The EU’s Kuneva will travel to Washington Thursday with Enterprise Commissioner Guenter Verheugen to discuss the issue with U.S. counterparts.
The EU is due to make new toy safety proposals in January, but some EU and U.S. lawmakers have called for a ban on products made in China until the situation improves.
Kuneva has threatened such a ban if a report to be submitted by the Chinese authorities next week fails to meet her concerns.
Mattel’s shares are near a 52-week low and closed Tuesday down 1 cent to $21.25 on the New York Stock Exchange.
However, analysts told the Barron’s financial newspaper they expected the stock to rebound as parents and investors regained confidence after the recalls.
In Washington, a congressional panel questioned the acting head of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on Tuesday. Bipartisan legislation has been offered in both chambers to give the safety agency more money, employees and legal clout as well as requiring more independent safety testing and better recall procedures.
U.S. consumers who bought the recalled Fisher-Price kitchen toy should contact the company for a free repair kit. A photograph of the recalled kitchen toy was posted on the U.S. safety agency's Internet sitehere .
Reporting by Julie Vorman in Washington and Darren Ennis in Brussels; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton/Tim Dobbyn
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