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US Toy Executives Say China Not Responsible for Most Recalls

The largest U.S. toy company says design flaws are mostly to blame for the recall of more than 20 million toys over the past three months -- and not Chinese manufacturers. VOA's Alex Villarreal reports from Washington.

The world's largest toy company, Mattel, says it bears primary responsibility for three recent safety scares which prompted the removal of more than 20 million Chinese-made toys from store shelves.

During talks in Beijing on Friday, the U.S. company's executive vice president for worldwide operations, Thomas Debrowski, says the recalls should not be blamed on China.

"The vast majority of those products that were recalled were the result of a design flaw in Mattel's design not through a manufacturing flaw in China-run factories," said Debrowski.

Until now, China has borne the brunt of the blame for the recalls, issued after several products -- including Barbie doll accessories and toy cars -- were found to contain small magnets which can cause severe health problems when swallowed or lead paint, which can cause brain damage.

The problems with the toys outraged U.S. consumers and lawmakers and dealt another blow to the already-damaged image of Chinese exports following a slew of other Chinese product recalls around the world.

Mattel's Debrowski apologized for this effect on China's reputation.

"Mattel takes full responsibility for those recalls, and apologizes to you, the Chinese people, and all of our customers who received the toys that were manufactured," he said.

Head of China's product quality watchdog, Li Changjiang, welcomed the apology. Last month, he said flawed U.S. designs were responsible for 85 percent of the toys recalled and urged Mattel to take responsibility.

"I really hope that Mattel can learn from its mistakes through this experience and continue to improve," he said.

Despite Mattel's admission, China is likely to face continued criticism in Congress. In a statement Friday, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer responded to the company's apology, saying China should also apologize for exporting what he called "shoddy products."

Earlier this month, Beijing signed an agreement with Washington to ban the use of lead paint on toys exported to the United States.

China accounts for about 70 percent of worldwide toy exports and 80 percent of all toys sold in the United States.

It says most of its products are safe, accusing the media of exaggerating the problem.