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BIG BIRD, ELMO ON TOY RECALL LIST

Excessive lead in paint raises new concerns about the safety of Chinese-made products.

Toymaker Fisher-Price is recalling 83 types of toys - including the popular Big Bird, Elmo, Dora and Diego characters - because their paint contains excessive amounts of lead.

The worldwide recall being announced today involves 967,000 plastic preschool toys made by a Chinese vendor and sold in the United States between May and August. It is the latest in a wave of recalls that has heightened global concern about the safety of Chinese-made products.

The recall is the first for Fisher-Price Inc. and parent company Mattel Inc. involving lead paint. It is the largest for Mattel since 1998, when Fisher-Price had to yank about 10-million Power Wheels from toy stores.

The problem was detected by an internal investigation and reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, David Allmark, general manager of Fisher-Price, said Wednesday. The recall is particularly alarming since Mattel, known for its strict quality controls, is considered a role model in the toy industry for how it operates in China.

Fisher-Price and the commission issued statements saying parents should keep suspect toys away from children and contact the company.

Carter Keithley, president of the Toy Industries Association, praised Mattel's quick response to the problem, and suggested Mattel will use this setback as a lesson for not only the company but for the entire industry.

He expressed concern about how the recall and other toy recalls will play out in consumers' minds in advance of the holiday season.

"We are worried about the public feeling," said Keithley, adding he observed how toy companies are embracing strict controls during a recent toy safety seminar in China. "We have thought all along that (consumers) can be confident in the products," he said. "But if companies like Mattel have this, then you have to ask, how did this happen?"

FAST FACTS

What to do

Owners of a recalled toy can exchange it for a voucher for another product of the same value. To see pictures of the recalled toys, visit www.service.mattel.com. For more information, call Mattel's recall hot line at 1-800-916-4498.

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