Monday, September 10, 2007

Disney to Test Character Toys for Lead Paint

The Walt Disney Company said it would begin its own testing of toys featuring Disney characters, including random testing of products already on store shelves.

Disney’s plan 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. Indeed, the toymakers are usually held liable
legally for harm caused by the toys they make.

Separately, Toys “R” Us, the nation’s largest toy retailer, has notified manufacturers
that it, too, no longer feels that their tests are enough. Starting
this week, engineers hired by the company will regularly visit random
Toys “R” Us stores, fill their carts with branded toys and take them to
independent labs for testing.

Nickelodeon, which licenses popular characters like Dora the Explorer
and Diego to Mattel and other companies, decided to start its own
double-testing program in July in response to the recall of Thomas
& Friend toys made by the RC2 Corporation.

Disney’s tests will focus on about 2,000 toymakers and 65,000 products
each year. Disney’s Product Integrity Office, which oversees safety
programs throughout the company, including in its theme parks, is
deciding how often the tests will occur. Higher-selling products will
be pulled from shelves more frequently.

Disney has been considering surprise visits to vendors — and
subcontractors — in China, a step that Sesame Workshop has said that it
would take, according to a company spokeswoman. But such visits would
be difficult to time, Mr. Mooney of Disney said, adding that Disney did
not have contractual rights to make surprise inspections for quality
checks, a provision in the contract that Disney may want to renegotiate.

Toys and other children’s products like jewelry will be tested off the
shelves of all retailers that sell Disney toys — including Wal-Mart and KB Toys as well as stores in other parts of the world. The tests will start within next two weeks.

A spokesman for Disney said the company’s plan would cost a few million
dollars a year and that Disney might try to pass along the costs to
toymakers in contract negotiations.

Toys “R” Us has heard complaints from many customers about the recalls,
Mr. Storch said, and the store had started accepting returns with no
receipt, even if the toys were purchased at other stores. The company
began testing toys off the shelf to a lesser degree in January, testing
toys similar to ones that were recalled. But the new tests will be part
of a permanent program that looks for new problems as well as old ones,
Mr. Storch said.

Article Link (New York Times)

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