Here’s something manufacturers don’t want to hear from their customers: “Is this made in China? I don’t want something made in China.” That’s what a customer at Toys R’ Us asked yesterday when I was running in to buy a last-minute birthday gift. She was holding a netted bag of bath toys and couldn’t see the country of origin. After some ultra-pricy Thomas Trains and now a range of Fisher Price toys from Mattel (all Chinese-made) were found to have excessive levels of lead paint, it’s hard to blame her for being concerned.
In fact, almost all toys are made in China. With the latest Mattel recall, I found myself looking a little more skeptically at my toddler’s Dora bed. (Dora toys were among those recalled) He doesn’t exactly chew on the thing but it was cheap enough that I assume it could only have been made in a low-cost labor market like China.
One thing I’m not clear on is how serious these lead levels are. Would your two year old have to chew his way through several toys to be at risk, or does simply handling the products pose problems? Mattel, at least, seems to be handling this latest crisis with a more open attitude than RC2, which was essentially silent in the immediate aftermath of the Thomas recall. With each incident, though, “China” increasingly becomes a dirty word in the minds of consumers. Makers of U.S.-made toys will likely leap on that fact to their advantage.
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