updated 7/15/2004 4:39:53 PM ET 2004-07-15T20:39:53

Caught in a web of criticism over a Spider-Man toy put in cereal boxes, Kellogg Co. said Thursday that it will never again use mercury batteries in promotional items.

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It will also offer postage-paid envelopes to customers who want to send back any of the 17 million Spidey Signals, wristwatch-shaped toys that project a spider, a web or a rendering of the villainous Dr. Octopus onto a wall.

The decision was part of an agreement with state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who said the move applies nationwide.

Kellogg spokeswoman Celeste Clark said that while the plastic-wrapped toy meets federal safety standards and has no effect on the food, “we are taking this action to go beyond what is required by law to address an issue important to our consumers and the environment.”

Under the agreement, Kellogg’s will stop distributing mercury batteries by Sept. 30, well after the “Spider-Man 2” promotion has run its course.

On July 2, Kellogg agreed to stop shipments to Connecticut and New Hampshire and ask stores there to return the boxes. Those states had laws banning mercury-powered toys because of mercury’s toxicity and the environmental problems it creates when not properly discarded.

On Monday, New York Gov. George Pataki signed a similar law. Though it does not go into effect until next year, Pataki had urged Kellogg to comply immediately.

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