NEW YORK – The third major recall by Mattel Inc. of lead-tainted Chinese toys has left the world's largest toymaker fighting to maintain its reputation as company shares fell sharply Wednesday.
Mattel announced late Tuesday it was recalling 800,000 toys, including 675,000 accessories for one of the company's biggest sellers, the Barbie doll. Also part of the recall, the third in just over a month, were 90,000 units of Mattel's GeoTrax locomotive line and about 8,900 Big Big World 6-in-1 Bongo Band toys, both from the company's Fisher-Price brand. The Big Big World products were sold nationwide from July through August of this year, while the GeoTrax toys were sold from September 2006 through August of this year.
Mattel shares dropped 2.64 percent, or 58 cents, to $21.39 in early trading Wednesday.
Mattel's last recall, announced on Aug. 14, covered about 19 million toys worldwide. They included Chinese-made toys that either had excessive amounts of lead paint or had small magnets that could easily be swallowed by children.
On Aug. 1, Mattel's Fisher-Price division said it was recalling 1.5 million preschool toys featuring characters such as Dora the Explorer, Big Bird and Elmo because of lead paint. That action included 967,000 toys sold in the United States between May and August.
Robert Eckert, chairman and chief executive of El Segundo, Calif.-based Mattel, warned at a press conference last month that there may be more recalls as the company stepped up investigations into Chinese factories and intensified production checks.
In a statement issued late Tuesday, Eckert said: "As a result of our ongoing investigation, we discovered additional affected products. Consequently, several subcontractors are no longer manufacturing Mattel toys. We apologize again to everyone affected and promise that we will continue to focus on ensuring the safety and quality of our toys."
Mattel added that it has completed its testing program for the majority of its toys and spent more than 50,000 hours investigating vendors and testing toys over the past four-week period.
Mattel, which has cultivated an image of tightly controlled production in China, may have trouble convincing consumers that its products are safe this holiday season. The Consumer Product Safety Commission may investigate how quickly Mattel notified authorities of problems before the Aug. 14 recall.
With more than 80 percent of toys sold worldwide made in China, the problems go well beyond Mattel's image.
In June, toy maker RC2 Corp. voluntarily recalled 1.5 million wooden railroad toys and set parts from its Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway product line. The company said the surface paint on certain toys and parts made in China between January 2005 and April 2006 contained lead, affecting 23 retailers.
In July, Hasbro Inc. recalled Chinese-made Easy Bake ovens on reports of second- and third-degree burns to children. It was the second time the iconic toy has been recalled this year.
A Chinese quality official said Wednesday that the country is investigating the latest recall.
Wang Xin, an official with the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine, said the agency, which oversees all products made in China, is trying to get details on when the toys were made and the manufacturers involved.
Mattel vowed as recently as last month it would tighten its controls in China. About 65 percent of the company's toys are made in there, and about 50 percent of Mattel's production is in China at company-owned plants.
The recalled toys in the Barbie accessory line included a Barbie Dream Puppy House, which had lead paint on the dog; a Barbie Dream Kitty Condo playset, which had lead paint on the cat; and a Barbie table and chairs kitchen playset, which had lead paint on the dog and dinner plates.
Mattel said in a statement that the Barbie products affected by the recall were produced by Holder Plastic Company, a Mattel contract vendor, which subcontracted the painting of miniature toy pets and small furniture pieces to Dong Lian Fa and Yip Sing.
The two GeoTrax toys were made by Apex Manufacturing Company Ltd., one of Mattel's contract vendors, which outsourced paint work to a subcontractor, Boyi Plastic Products Factory. Apex supplied Boyi with certified paint; however, the toys were made with uncertified paint. Boyi is no longer in business, Mattel said.
The GeoTrax toys were manufactured between July 31, 2006, and September 4, 2006; however, the painted parts were stored and incorporated into toy production throughout the year. Mattel said it is recalling toys shipped between August 3, 2006, and July 31 of this year.
Fisher-Price's Big Big World toy was manufactured by Shun On Factory, one of Mattel's contract vendors, which outsourced the molding and painting of one plastic piece. A subcontractor, Jingying Tampo Printing Processing Factory, used uncertified paint on the recalled piece.
For information about Tuesday's recalls, consumers should call Mattel at 888-496-8330 or visit the company's Web site at http://www.service.mattel.com.