China said Thursday it has banned lead-tainted exports by two toy manufacturers whose products were subject to major recalls in the United States, Beijing’s latest effort to repair its reputation as a safe supplier.
The General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said the restrictions on Lee Der Industrial Co. Ltd. and Hansheng Wood Products were temporary, but did not give details.
“They have been asked to evaluate and change their business practices,” the administration said in a notice on its Web site.
It was not immediately clear how long the ban would last, or whether any further action was planned. The quality watchdog last month revoked the business licenses and barred exports by two other Chinese companies that made a tainted pet food ingredient linked to the deaths of cats and dogs in North America.
Officials at Lee Der and Hansheng, both located in the southern province of Guangdong, said they had not heard about the export ban and refused to comment further.
The administration also warned that other toy manufacturers whose products do not meet safety standards overseas will not be allowed to sell their goods abroad until they rectify problems, and suggested that foreign companies who contract Chinese factories should take more responsibility.
“To prevent loopholes in quality control, overseas brand owners should improve their product design and supervision over product quality,” the administration said.
The agency said police were investigating two companies’ use of “fake plastic pigment” but did not elaborate. Such pigments are a type of industrial latex usually used to increase surface gloss and smoothness.
Lead poisoning can cause vomiting, anemia and learning difficulties. In extreme cases, it can cause severe neurological damage and death.
Chinese companies often have long supply chains, making it difficult to trace the exact origin of components, chemicals, and food additives — a major factor at the heart of its recurring safety woes in domestic and international markets.
Lee Der made 967,000 toys recalled last week by Mattel Inc. because they were coated with paint found to have excessive amounts of lead. The plastic preschool toys, sold under the Fisher-Price brand in the U.S., included the popular Big Bird, Elmo, Dora and Diego characters.
In June, RC2 Corp. recalled 1.5 million wooden railroad toys and set parts made by Hansheng from its Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway product line because of lead paint.
China has come under fire in recent months after potentially dangerous levels of chemicals and toxins were found in some of its exports. A range of products from seafood to toothpaste have been recalled or rejected by a number of countries worried about safety.
On Thursday, New Jersey-based importer Foreign Tire Sales Inc., said it would recall 255,000 Chinese-made tires it claims were defective because they lack a safety feature that prevents tread separation.
The company had been ordered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in June to recall as many as 450,000 tires that it bought from Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. since 2002.
As part of efforts to regain international confidence, officials have embarked on an aggressive campaign, which includes the unusually quick passage of a new food and drug safety regulation by the State Council, China’s Cabinet, and a high-tech plan to keep athletes healthy during the 2008 Olympics.
Meanwhile, the official Xinhua News Agency said five people were on trial in the southern city of Guangzhou in connection with the 2006 deaths of 13 consumers who took a drug to treat inflamed gallbladders and stomach linings.
The five were employees at the Qiqihar No. 2 Pharmaceutical Co. of Heilongjiang province, which allegedly used a chemical, diglycol, that can cause kidney failure. A vendor passed it off as a normal ingredient and inspectors failed to detect the diglycol.
China’s pharmaceutical industry is highly lucrative but poorly regulated. Companies frequently cash in by substituting fake or substandard ingredients.
Also Thursday, Xinhua said 22 people have been arrested in the northern province of Hebei for producing and selling fake rabies vaccines. Some 44,000 bottles of the counterfeit vaccine have been seized, Xinhua said, and no illnesses have reported.