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China launches campaign to weed out unqualified toy makers

China launches campaign to weed out unqualified toy makers

A U.S. lawmaker called on China on Tuesday to effectively address its product safety problems as the country launched a nationwide campaign to root out unqualified toy manufacturers.
Rep. Rick Larsen, who was on a weeklong visit to China said the lengthening list of Chinese exports _ from pet food ingredients to toothpaste _ that have been found to contain high levels of chemicals and toxins was "a very real problem."
"It's about your child, and it's about your pet, and it's about food on the table," said Larsen, a Democrat from Washington state. "You can't get more personal than that for Americans, and so it does need to be addressed."
Larsen and Republican Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois met Tuesday with officials from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine. According to Larsen, the Chinese officials said they recognized there was a problem and that it was being fixed.
Larsen and Kirk are co-chairs of the U.S.-China Working Group, which is focusing on the expansion of export opportunities to China for small- and medium-sized U.S. businesses.
Before Congress' August recess, Kirk introduced a bipartisan bill which would increase penalties against importers of contaminated goods by 100 times. Food and toy violations resulting in death would now mean fines of US$50 million (euro36.59 million) instead of US$500,000 (euro365,925).
Larsen urged U.S. importers to get more involved in the process. He said their businesses could suffer, especially around Christmas "if the American public does get to the point where they are ... specifically looking for products that are not made in China."
The legislation also provides funding to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for overseas inspections of processed foods and toothpaste.
China's crackdown on toy makers comes two weeks after Mattel Inc., the world's largest toy maker, recalled almost 19 million dolls, cars and action figures because they contained lead paint or tiny magnets that could damage organs if swallowed by children.
"An examination will be conducted across the country on licensed Chinese toy producers and exporters to clear out those unqualified ones," the quality administration 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 administration said.
Chen Xitong, an administration official, said the program would begin Tuesday but did not give any other details.
It is part of a four-month program aimed at improving overall quality _ from food to drugs to consumer products _ as China fights to shore up its battered reputation as a safe exporter.
Also Tuesday, the Beijing News reported that the Beijing People's High Court upheld the death sentence of Cao Wenzhuang, the former drug registration department director of the State Food and Drug Administration.
Cao was sentenced to death last month for accepting bribes and dereliction of duty. He was given a two-year reprieve, which usually means he can get life in prison if he is deemed to have reformed.
Cao had been secretary to Zheng Xiaoyu, the head of the agency, in the 1980s. Zheng was executed in July for taking bribes to approve substandard medicines _ including an antibiotic blamed for at least 10 deaths _ and became a symbol of China's product safety crisis.
The recall by Mattel centered around 18.2 million Batman and Polly Pocket dolls, and Barbie play sets, which were pulled from the shelves because of a revision of international standards in May that required safety warnings for toys with magnets or magnetic components not attached tightly.
Another 436,000 toy "Sarge" cars, based on a character from the movie "Cars," were also recalled because they contained lead.
No injuries have been reported.
A European consumers' group called Tuesday for tighter enforcement of EU toy safety laws following the Mattel recall.
Jim Murray, the director of European consumers' organization BEUC, said he had written to the European Commission, demanding they urgently review product safety rules that rely heavily on voluntary cooperation from companies.
China, which supplies more than a quarter of the EU's imports, is the source of about half of all problem consumer products, excluding food.
While Chinese officials have promised stricter supervision of the toy industry, they have also blamed what they say are varying global quality standards and faulty U.S. designs.