updated 10/30/2007 3:13:45 PM ET 2007-10-30T19:13:45

The federal consumer product watchdog agency said Tuesday that a unilateral recall of lead-tainted toy animals by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. lacked some information that consumers need, including how many toys were sold, when they were sold and at what other retailers.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission spokeswoman Julie Vallese said the agency prefers that companies work with it to produce comprehensive recall announcements that give consumers all the information they need to react.

The nation's largest toy seller announced Oct. 19 that it was pulling sets of plastic toy animals made in China and offering a refund to shoppers. It said its own safety testing, stepped up after this year's string of toy recalls, found excessive lead levels in the material the toys are made of.

Wal-Mart said Tuesday it always works with the CPSC and did so in this case by notifying the agency of the test results and decision to pull the product.

"Our testing revealed excessive levels of lead in these toy sets. We informed the supplier and the CPSC and we felt we had to let our customers know what we'd found," company spokeswoman Linda Blakely said.

Wal-Mart's Oct. 19 recall announcement did not say how many of the sets were sold, when they had been stocked in Wal-Mart stores or name the manufacturer.

The retailer has declined to provide those details when asked by The Associated Press. A spokeswoman said she believed the toys were sold by other retailers but declined to provide their names.

The CPSC's Vallese said she was not criticizing Wal-Mart and said the agency has a good working relationship with the retailer.

But the agency wants recall announcement to contain all the information consumers need to respond, including how many of a product were sold, when and where.

"All of this information is necessary for consumers to respond to announced recalls," Vallese said.

"We are not big fans of when companies handle recall announcements independently of the agency. It can cause confusion and doesn't always provide consumers with the information they need," Vallese said.

The CPSC's recall notices also specify whether a product poses an imminent health hazard, like choking, or because it violates a law, such as those against excessive lead levels.

"Wal-Mart took an action independent of the agency, knowing that we prefer when the announcement (of a recall) includes all the information that makes it more comprehensive and less confusing," Vallese said.

She said Wal-Mart's information prompted the agency to open an investigation of the toys, which were sold in bagged sets of farm animals, jungle animals and dinosaurs without a brand name.

The investigation includes testing by the agency's own labs. Vallese could not say when those results would be done but added that "to say a matter of months would be too long".

While the investigation is active, Vallese said the agency is barred by law from disclosing details including the number of toys sold or at which retailers.

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