Walt Disney Co. has announced that it will start its own testing of toys featuring Disney characters in the wake of recalls of millions of Mattel Inc. toys that were found to have unsafe levels of lead paint.
According to a Disney executive, the company will inform Mattel and other toy makers on Monday. The process will include random testing of products already on store shelves, the executive said.
It sends the message that we are looking over their shoulders, the online edition of the New York Times quoted Andy Mooney, the chairman of Disney's consumer products division, as saying.
Disney's plan, the paper said, represents a significant shift in the toy business. Traditionally, these companies have licensed their characters to toy companies, deposited their royalty checks and left quality control up to the manufacturers. The toy makers are usually held liable legally for harm caused by the toys they make.
In a separate development, engineers hired by the largest U.S. toy retailer, Toys R Us, have been instructed to regularly visit the company's stores to take branded toys to independent labs for testing.
Trust but verify. I have to be able to put my head on the pillow and say 'I've done everything I can,' Ron Boire, president of the privately-held Toys R Us, told the New York Times.
Recently, US toy maker Mattel ordered three separate recalls of millions of Chinese made toys found to contain unsafe levels of lead paint, adding fuel to the international debate on health and other safety concerns relating to Chinese made products.
Other marketers such as Sesame Workshop also said they intend to test products independently. Viacom Inc.'s Nickelodeon, which licenses popular characters like Dora the Explorer and Diego to Mattel and other companies, has decided to start its own double-testing program in July in response to the recall of Thomas & Friend toys made by the Chinese RC2 Corporation.
The American toy and game maker Hasbro has also announced plans to test production equipment and supplies more often than in the past.
Retail chain giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is asking its suppliers to resubmit documentation on toy tests, and has hired independent laboratories to perform complementary tests.
Wal-Mart said it will focus its safety measures first on toys for children up to the age of three, including toys with surface coatings or magnets that could end up in a child's mouth.
Wal-Mart will ensure the results of its tests are shared with the whole industry - retailers and manufacturers, the company said in a written statement.
Wal-Mart added that it stands ready to help leaders in China develop new testing procedures, and that it will work with manufacturers worldwide on finding new toy products for its shelves and providing parents with greater choice.