updated 8/28/2007 5:14:56 AM ET 2007-08-28T09:14:56

Faulty American designs and conflicting global standards for safety are at the root of the mass recalls of Chinese-made toys by Mattel Inc., a top quality official said Monday.

Defending the overall quality of Chinese workmanship, Li Changjiang, director of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, said recent export problems stemmed from “different standards that China and the United States apply to different products.”

“That would lead to difficulty in defining whether a product is problematic,” Li added at a news conference without elaborating.

Nationwide campaign
On Tuesday, however, China also said it had launched a nationwide campaign to weed out unqualified toy makers. Chinese officials have promised stricter supervision of the industry.

“An examination will be conducted across the country on licensed Chinese toy producers and exporters to clear out those unqualified ones,” the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said on its Web site.

“Export toy quality certificates will be revoked for those companies who are found to have serious problems in quality management and product safety control,” the quality watchdog said.

His comments were the latest in China’s effort to show it is striving to overcome safety woes and is a trustworthy manufacturer. But continuing discoveries of high levels of chemicals and toxins in Chinese goods — from toothpaste and clothes to fish and juice — are making that an uphill task.

This month, Mattel, the world’s largest toy maker, recalled almost 19 million Chinese-made dolls, cars and action figures because they were contaminated with lead paint or contained small, powerful magnets that could damage a child’s organs if swallowed.

“About 85 percent were directly designed by the American company and produced according to requirements of the American importer,” Li said of the toys.

“I personally have seen some of the toys. There are serious problems in their design, so they are highly dangerous for children. These types of toys would be recalled in any country.”

He did not give details on the alleged design problems.

Li conceded Chinese producers also have responsibility for making problematic toys, but asked “what kind of responsibility should the U.S. importers and U.S. designers take in this respect?”

Revised standards
Chinese officials said last week that 18.2 million of the recalled toys — including Polly Pocket dolls and Barbie play sets — were pulled off the shelves because of international standards for magnets were revised in May.

Mattel first announced a recall targeting magnets last November, after several Polly Pocket-related injuries were reported. It extended that recall to conform to the new standards, which require safety warnings for toys with magnets or magnetic components not attached tightly.

At the same time, the company recalled 436,000 “Sarge” cars based on the character from the movie “Cars” because they contained lead paint.

Li said that Chinese-made toys are safe for the most part, saying the number of recalled toys was a tiny fraction of the 22 billion toys exported from China last year.

The State Council, the country’s Cabinet, has in the past month passed a new safety regulation, issued a policy paper, put together a high-level panel and launched a nationwide campaign to address a variety of quality issues.

The program aims to monitor all wholesale markets in cities, license all food producers and have them guarantee quality with labels. It also bans drug advertisements by celebrities.

The system will establish a “chain of supervision of the entire production process of food ... as well as a trace back and accountability system of product quality and food safety,” the State Council said in a statement.

Sick workers
Underlining the food safety problem, the Strait Metropolis Daily newspaper reported Monday that 265 workers in the coastal city of Xiamen got sick last weekend after eating chicken, fish and vegetables at a restaurant. The eatery was shut down by authorities, the report said.

China has also highlighted its own recalls and import bans to show that other countries also have quality problems.

Indonesian fish products have been banned because Chinese inspectors repeatedly found disease in them, Li said. Meat products from five major American companies have been suspended because they contained additives and bacteria, he said.

Li also said Chinese tests showed its clothing exports to New Zealand met China’s standards for flammability and formaldehyde. Last week, New Zealand launched an investigation after children’s clothes imported from China were found to contain dangerously high levels of a potentially cancer-causing chemical that gives clothes a permanent-press effect.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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