Toy Company CEOs to Testify in Senate on Product Safety

Mattel Inc. CEO Robert Eckert and U.S. product safety inspectors will face questions from senators next week as Congress begins probes of toy safety and a recent rash of recalls.

A Senate Appropriations subcommittee led by the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, will hear from Eckert, chairman and chief executive of El Segundo, Calif.-based Mattel on Wednesday, Sept. 19.

A call by The Associated Press seeking comment from Mattel was not immediately returned.

The appearance comes a little over a week after the company issued its third major recall since August involving toys with lead paint. Mattel announced Tuesday it was recalling 800,000 toys, including 675,000 accessories for one of the company’s biggest sellers, the Barbie doll.

Mattel also recalled nearly 19 million toys worldwide on August 14, including Chinese-made toys that either had excessive amounts of lead paint or had small magnets that could easily be swallowed by children.

The company’s Fisher-Price division on August 1 said it was recalling 1.5 million preschool toys featuring characters such as Dora the Explorer, Big Bird and Elmo because of lead paint.

Also scheduled to testify at the hearing are Toys “R” Us Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jerry Storch, two Consumer Product Safety Commission members and representatives of the Toy Industry Association, American National Standards Institute and Consumers Union. A House subcommittee plans its own hearing the following week.

Other toy companies also have faced embarrassing recalls.

In June, toy maker RC2 Corp. voluntarily recalled 1.5 million wooden railroad toys and set parts from its Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway product line because of lead paint. In July, Hasbro Inc. recalled Chinese-made Easy Bake ovens on reports of second- and third-degree burns to children.

Durbin said government inspectors share the blame with toy companies for the recalls.

“When only one out of every hundred shipments coming into this country is inspected, when we have some ports where the volume of imports overwhelm the one or two inspectors on the job, then, frankly, we’re not keeping faith with the American people,” Durbin said. “We need a consumer protection agency that is up to the challenge of protecting consumers. And manufacturers and retailers need to agree to a tough set of internal standards to ensure that the products on our shelves are safe.”

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee plans a September 19 hearing on hazardous toys. “We must rid the nation’s stores of dangerous products,” said Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill.