Congress will grill Mattel CEO over toy safety after third recall

This is an archived article that was published on in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The U.S. Congress plans to question Mattel Inc. Chief Executive Officer Robert Eckert and federal regulators on product safety after the toy maker announced its third recall of Chinese-made products in five weeks.

Eckert, Toys ''R'' Us Inc. CEO Jerry Storch and U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission acting Chairwoman Nancy Nord are scheduled to testify at a Wednesday hearing, Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said Thursday.

Mattel, the world's largest toy maker, has asked consumers to return about 21 million products because of excessive lead paint or detached magnets. The moves come as several other Chinese-made products, including pet food and toothpaste, have been banned or recalled over safety concerns.

''The government is going to use the toy industry as an example of problems with Chinese imports,'' said Gerrick Johnson, a toy industry analyst at BMO Capital Markets in New York. ''The toy industry will continue to appear in the news, and it will affect the holiday season.''

About 35 percent of sales occur in the final three months of the year for Mattel and Hasbro Inc., the second-biggest toy maker.

The Toy Industry Association, a trade group, said it supports the idea of mandatory testing and inspections by the government. The organization, whose members include Mattel and Hasbro, said it and the American National Standards Institute are developing procedures to check that toys meet safety standards.

The hearing by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government will examine recent recalls and the CPSC's budget and authority, Durbin said in a statement.

A House of Representatives subcommittee will hold a separate Sept. 19 hearing on lead in Chinese-made children's products, Illinois Democrat Bobby Rush, the subcommittee's chairman, announced last month.

The House subcommittee sent letters on Aug. 22 to the heads of 19 companies that have issued lead-related recalls on children's toys, jewelry and other products this year, including Mattel, RC2 Corp., Target Corp. and Tween Brands Inc.

The letters request information on the products' Chinese manufacturer, steps taken to inspect the products and consumer response since the recall.

About 2.8 million of Mattel's recalled toys have contained paint that may contain excessive levels of lead. The rest included magnets that children may be able to swallow. Mattel sources 65 percent of its toys from China.

Mattel, based in El Segundo, Calif., announced its third recall in five weeks on Tuesday after finding about 848,000 Chinese-made Barbie and Fisher-Price products with paint that may contain excessive lead levels. Lead may be toxic if ingested by children and can cause brain damage.

Mattel shares fell 55 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $21.37, at 2:08 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Hasbro, based in Pawtucket, R.I., declined 78 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $26.35.