Mattel scrutinizing suppliers after recalls

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Mattel Inc, the world’s largest toy maker, is putting its suppliers under a microscope after its second major recall of Chinese-made toys in less than a month.

“We have taken a very, very hard look at our procedures and have enhanced them significantly to ensure that what we’ve seen in the past, we won’t see again,” Jim Walter, Mattel’s senior vice president of Worldwide Quality Assurance, said in an interview.

Those enhanced procedures are part of Mattel’s new “three-point” check system that includes requiring every batch of paint at each of its vendors to be tested, an increased number of random factory inspections, and testing to ensure every production run of toys is in compliance.

The maker of Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels and Fisher Price toys on Tuesday recalled millions toys made in China due to lead paint and hazards from small, powerful magnets that can be swallowed and cause injury.

Two weeks ago, Mattel’s Fisher Price unit recalled 1.5 million preschool toys made by Chinese factory Lee Der Industrial Co. because paint on them may have included excessive amounts of lead.

Mattel has increased the number of employees it has in China to better track its toys from assembly line to child.

Chief Executive Robert Eckert said Mattel’s more stringent standards may result in future recalls.

“No toy is leaving our control today unless it passes the new testing guidelines,” Eckert said in an interview. “Nobody wants more recalls ... If we find more issues, we’ll deal with it publicly.”

Mattel’s latest recall involves 18.2 million magnetic toys globally, including 9.5 million in the United States.

The recall also includes 253,000 Pixar Sarge die-cast toy cars with lead paint, which has been linked to serious health problems in children including brain damage.

In June, RC2 Corp recalled Chinese-made wooden Thomas & Friends toy trains sold in the United States because some of them contained lead paint.

More than 80 percent of toys on U.S. store shelves are made in China, according to the Toy Industry Association, raising concerns among companies and consumers.

“Certainly in light of the recent news from China, Hasbro Inc has redoubled its safety efforts when it comes to any of the products it makes both here and overseas,” Hasbro spokesman Wayne Charness said.

“We have a tremendous amount of people that are there now, so we’re just continuing to look at everything,” Charness aid, adding that most of Hasbro’s toys are made in China.

Isaac Larian, chief executive of MGA Entertainment which makes Bratz dolls, said in a statement that his company was confident in its "testing protocols" and mentioned no specific plans to increase monitoring of its Chinese suppliers. (See here for "Shop Talk" -- Reuters' retail and consumer blog)