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U.S. consumer safety group eyeing Mr. Squiggles

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Zhu Zhu toy hamsters, one of the hottest toys of the holiday season, are being examined by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission after a report by a consumer group raised concerns about levels of a chemical in one type of the China-made toy.

Consumer watchdog group GoodGuide, based in California, said in a report on Saturday that one item in the group of toys, called Mr. Squiggles, contained more than the allowed level of antimony. Antimony is used in lead storage batteries and sheet and pipe metal, and as a fire retardant in textiles and plastics.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prolonged exposure to antimony can cause lung and heart problems, ulcers and diarrhea.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said in a statement that it was looking into the Zhu Zhu toy and that it would complete its review swiftly.

Zhu Zhu pets are interactive hamster toys that respond to noise and touch.

Cepia LLC disputed GoodGuide’s findings and said in a statement that the group’s testing methodology was “inferior”.

Zhu Zhu Pets are made in China for Cepia, which is based in St. Louis, Missouri.

Cepia said its Mr. Squiggles toy was “absolutely safe” and that it was “confident” Zhu Zhu toys complied with all U.S. and European safety standards.

On Monday, GoodGuide said it had made in error by comparing its findings to federal standards.

“Since issuing our release, we have learned that the testing methodology used in the federal standards is different than the methodology we used in our testing. Accordingly, while we accurately reported the chemical levels in the toys that we measured using our testing method, we should not have compared our results to federal standards. We regret this error.”

The toys, about $8 each, are sold at Wal-Mart, Toys “R” Us, Target and other U.S. retailers.

British toy distributor Character Group moved after the GoodGuide report to reassure customers that its best-selling Go Go Hamster toys were safe.

Character said Mr. Squiggles had been found to comply with “stringent safety and quality standards and regulations imposed by the European authorities” in new tests held overnight in Hong Kong. Character holds British distribution rights to Go Go Pets. (Reporting by Dhanya Skariachan, editing by Maureen Bavdek and Matthew Lewis)

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